Teach Siri nicknames

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Looking for a simpler way to tell Siri which of the many Dans, Jennifers, or Jasons in your contacts list you want to call? In this week's video tip, Scholle Sawyer McFarland shares a few ways to get the job done.


Siri makes it easy to call or text friends and colleagues when you’re on the go. But what happens if your friends all have the same name? For instance, in the Macworld office there are three Dans, two of which have last names that start with “M.”

Usually, Siri will understand if you call people by their last names. For example, “Siri, text Frakes.” But another, potentially more amusing, way to deal with an abundance of Katherines, Jennifers, or Dans is to assign your contacts nicknames.

Whip up a nickname

On your iPhone, tap Phone, tap a contact’s name, tap Edit, and then scroll to the bottom. Tap add field and then tap Nickname. A new field appears right below the contact’s name. Type in a descriptive nickname and then tap Done.

Now you can use the nickname instead of the person’s name. For example: “Siri, text The Best Dan.” (Sorry, other Dans, Frakes got to me first.)

Siri gives you the most flexibility when you want to add a nickname of your own. This you can do by voice. For example: “Siri, from now on, call me The Mistress of Darkness.”

Simplify when Siri gets confused

Sometimes Siri gets confused by nicknames that are more than one word. If you find her stumbling when you ask her to call your significant other “honey bear” (two words), try running the words together in the contact’s nickname field to make one word: “honeybear.”

Teach Siri about relationships

You might also run into trouble if you try to use nicknames like “boss” or “mom.” That’s because Siri has another way to indicate relationships like that. On your iPhone, tap Phone and then tap Contacts. Tap your own name, tap Edit, and then scroll down to add related name. When you tap this, a new field will appear, set to mother. Tap to see your options, including child, friend, partner, assistant, and manager.

You can also teach Siri about your relationships by voice. For example, say “Siri, text my boss.” Siri will respond by asking, “What is your manager’s name?” Tell her, and from now on she will remember.

Don't share more than you intend

Be aware that relationships and nicknames become part of a contact, so if you send your vCard to someone else—for instance, by scrolling down to the bottom of your contact and selecting Share Contact—the recipient will see your mother and siblings’ names, as well as your preference for being called “The Mistress of Darkness.” Whether you want to share that information is, of course, up to you.

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