Get help when writing text messages and emails by using the Look Up function on the iPhone to get dictionary definitions, Wikipedia entries and more.

The iPhone has more features than you probably realise and when typing in text messages, emails and other text, there are tools at your fingertips that help to improve your writing, like this one.

When typing messages and emails on the iPhone you might be tempted to try to impress people with you knowledge of the English (or American) language.

It is strange, but we tend to write to a higher standard of grammar than we speak. We use all sorts of slang and contractions when we speak, but writing is different and is usually more formal.

You may want to use words you have heard spoken or seen written, but you aren’t quite sure what they mean. You think you know and think you are using the words correctly, but what if you are not?

Take ‘famous’ and 'infamous’ for example. Which should you use when talking about someone and why? Are they interchangeable? Do they mean the same thing?

OK, you might already know the difference between these words, but for the purposes of this tutorial, let’s say you don’t. How can we find out what these words mean? Just look them up!

In this example I will be using the Messages app, but the iOS Look Up function works with other apps too.

1 Type some text into the app

Let’s suppose we are writing a text message and have used the word ‘infamous’. Are we using it correctly? What does it mean? To find out, double tap the word.

The Messages app on the iPhone

2 Slide the toolbar to see more

Double tapping a word in some text on the screen selects it, highlights it in blue and puts handles (lollipop sticks) at each end. This would be useful if we wanted to select one or more words in the text we are entering.

With the word we want to look up highlighted, press the arrow button at the right side of the toolbar.

Select text in the Messages app on the iPhone

3 Use the Look Up function

The rest of the items on the toolbar are displayed and there is now a Look Up function. Press it to look up the highlighted word or phrase.

Selected text in the Messages app on the iPhone

4 Explore the information

A screen like the one below appears and there is a dictionary definition at the top. This may contain all the information you need, but if you want a more detailed explanation of the word, press the arrow button on the right.

The full dictionary entry then appears and you can see exactly what the word means and even the origins. Press Done in the top right corner to return to the text message.

 Looking up words in the dictionary on the iPhone Looking up words in the dictionary on the iPhone

As the first Look Up screen above shows and this is useful, but looking up a word or phrase provides more than just a dictionary definition.

Below it is a Wikipedia entry showing a video game by the same name. There are also suggested websites and apparently there was a movie of the same name released in 2006. It has 14,502 ratings and quite a good score.

The text Look Up function on the iPhone

Swipe to scroll the screen and even more information is displayed, such as maps - apparently there is a restaurant called Infamous Diner nearby. That's interesting. There are also Twitter tweets too. Swipe up to see everything.

The Look Up function is a powerful feature that can help with our writing. It can be used to look up dictionary definitions and also related information from maps, Twitter, the app store, Wikipedia and web searches. Try experimenting with it and get to know it. Use it next time you are writing a message or an email.