Getting Along with Siri

How to make Apple’s personal assistant your friend

By Tracey Dowdy

I have a complicated love/hate relationship with Siri. On one hand, she’s a lifesaver as I am blind as a bat without my reading glasses, so texting or emailing without them ends up being an intriguing game of deciphering autocorrect and “I wonder what that’s supposed to mean” for the recipient. On the other hand, sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth when she consistently or repeatedly misunderstands what I’m saying. It can be frustrating and, to be clear, it’s not you Siri, it’s me!

However, there are ways to improve your relationship with Siri that don’t involve couples therapy or walking away altogether. The key is to keep it simple. With a little patience and a little practice, you can get to know one another better and wonder how you ever lived without her!

Personalize your contacts

Siri had a rough time finding my daughter Ceilidh. (Go figure!) It’s pronounced Kaylee, but Siri was saying it as Kaleed. To correct Siri’s pronunciation, simply say, “That’s not how you pronounce Ceilidh.” Siri will ask you to pronounce it again for her. She’ll display 3 possible pronunciations and you can pick the correct one from this list. She’ll then pronounce the name and will pronounce it correctly going forward. Another option is to go into your Contacts>Edit>Add Field>Phonetic First Name. If a family member goes by a nickname, you have the option to add the nickname as well – Contacts>Edit>Add Field>Nickname.

Manage your calendar

Adding an appointment is as easy as saying “Siri, schedule a meeting with Paul tomorrow at 11 am.” If the individual is in your contact list, he will receive an email invitation. If you say “Schedule a meeting” but don’t include details such as a date or time, Siri will ask for clarification. If you make a mistake or need to make a change, it’s as easy as saying “Cancel my appointment with Paul tomorrow.” To review your day, you can ask Siri “What appointments do I have tomorrow?”

Hands-free texting

Use “Text” and “Tell” to have Siri send a message for you via SMS. Give simple commands like “Text Roy to meet me at Thai Orchid for dinner” or “Tell Ceilidh to pick up milk on the way home.” If you get a text while driving, you can have Siri read it aloud and respond without ever taking your eyes off the road.

Location-based instructions

One feature I recently became aware of is Location-Aware Reminders. Working via your phone’s GPS, Siri can send reminders as long as there is an address tied to the message. For example, if you need to pick up bagels on the way home, make sure the address for the deli is in your contacts. Tell Siri “Remind me to pick up bagels at Locke Street” and when you’re out running errands, a reminder will pop up. You will need to ensure Location Services is enabled – Settings > Privacy Location Services.

Check your voice mail

My husband insists on leaving voice mails, a source of never-ending frustration for me and our children. Just send a text! This isn’t 1987! Sorry – hit a nerve there. Discovering that Siri can retrieve and playback my voicemail may or may not have saved my marriage. Say, “Siri, play my voicemail” and she’ll put your phone on speaker and read it aloud to you.

Apple has a convenient user guide that will help you get started and walk you through how to use Siri. It includes a section on Frequently Asked Questions and list of apps that Siri works with worldwide.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. 

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