Punctuation Commands for Dictation in Voice to Text for Android

Many attorneys like to dictate letters or messages using their Android device. I use voice to text quite often to compose text messages, and when combined with Google Now’s voice commands, your phone becomes a handy personal assistant. Of course, I’ve talked about making your own dictation system with Google Drive and your Android Device. But Christian Williams wonders the following:

I wonder what punctuation can be used, if there is a command for new line or paragraph breaks.

Google is really improving Android dictation capabilities, and while you’re not going to experience Dragon-like dictation, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

STT types what you tell it to

Android’s speech to text engine is quite literal. That means, when you say, “new paragraph,” the STT engine translates and types, “new paragraph.”

Android Dictation Commands

This “stupidity” happens for essentially two reasons:

  1. STT isn’t really designed for dictation (at this time); and
  2. Google’s interested in conversational context for its STT engine.

STT design

In the grand world of speech to text, dictation — at least as attorney’s think of dictation — takes a very distant place. The reality is that most Android consumers will never use their Android devices with the intent of dictating long, legalese-filled, memos and diatribes. The true purpose, at least in the STT world according to Google, is to translate and send short bursts of text (think text messages or Twitter updates — 140 characters), rather than lengthier discourses.

When STT accomplishes that goal, 95% or more of users are happy.

The conversation is the important factor

Those happy users, sending short bursts of messages, is what Google’s trying to capture. Google’s search engine is all about conversational elements, as opposed to choppy keyword searches.

If you remember conversational, it’s easier to get engaged with STT.

What commands work?

Ultimately, figuring out what commands work, and when, will drive you bat crazy. Here’s a list of usable commands to make STT work a little better.

Here are some commands that are guaranteed to work:

  • Period = period (.)
  • Comma = comma (,)
  • Question mark = question mark (?)
  • Exclamation or exclamation point = exclamation point (!)
  • Apostrophe = apostrophe (‘)
  • Enter or new line = moves to a new line
  • New paragraph = new paragraph
  • Tab key = tab
  • Colon = colon (:)
  • Dash = dash (-)
  • Ellipsis or dot dot dot = ellipsis (…)
  • Ampersand = ampersand (&)
  • Asterisk = asterisk (*)
  • At sign = at sign (@)
  • Backslash = backslash (\)
  • Forward slash = forward slash (/)
  • Open bracket = open bracket ([)
  • Close bracket = closed bracket (])
  • Open parenthesis = open parenthesis (()
  • Close parenthesis = close parenthesis ())

Making it all work together

I’ve found that the best way to get dictation working is to have a continual conversation with your device. This means that if you pause for long periods of time, usually 2 or more seconds, STT won’t connect your command as a command. This is especially true for commands like “new paragraph” and “new line” or “enter.”

I find that if you pause only slightly, STT will spell out “enter,” rather than execute the command. It’s a really finicky function, but if you do it right dictation works well.

But it’s not Dragon Naturally Speaking

If’ you’re dead-set on having the Dragon experience, Android’s STT will disappoint. But, if you recognize Android’s dictation for what it is, then you’ll probably be satisfied with what you’re getting.

If you know of more commands that work, let me know so we can help everyone.

This post was originally published November 18, 2013.

92 Responses to Punctuation Commands for Dictation in Voice to Text for Android

    • I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a space after a period so that the next sentence starts with a capital letter?
      do you have any information on that?

      • Odd. I don’t have any problems starting the new sentence with a capital letter. I’d suggest that you verify you have the most current version of the Google app.

        • thanks for the info I’ll check it out. I see someone else had said they were having the same problems. weird looks like it worked this time no didn’t capitalize the W on weird oh well thanks a lot for the info anyway take caret

        • I’m still having trouble after closing a setence of getting the next sentence to space and start with a capital letter. Unless I use I or I’m those were but no other words will space and start with a capital letter any help would be appreciated thanks

      • The space ( Auto space) and (Auto) capitalization come from your cellphone’s keyboard settings. For example, on my samsung galaxy sIII, this is the path to those settings: Settings -> My device -> Language and input -> Samsung keyboard [ the settings cogwheel]. Then put a check in the boxes for auto capitalization and auto spacing.

  1. It would be another step less convenient, but you could later do a search and replace from your computer for the symbol you want to enter, for instance, replace “new paragraph” in your text with “^p^p” (if using MS Word). Or use a word that you would never use in your legalese text, maybe “wombat”!

    • On Android, saying “new line” went to the next line properly and “new paragraph” skipped a blank line properly as long as you say “new line” or “new paragraph” QUICKLY after “period”, “comma”, “question mark” or “exclamation point”.
      Saying it after “colon” or “semicolon” did not work, nor did saying it without one of the aforementioned preceding punctuation marks.


      just had to comment… Your brain and my brain appear to work much the same regarding workarounds and the such :-) Keep up the good work!
      Now, I have a comment / question for anybody who’s willing to give it a shot: While I like the idea of community help, and I applaud those who have taken the time to post their findings on “what we have discovered / stumbled upon” in android, does Google have no official resource that indexes the such?

    • Right??? I use it, quite literally, 10 times a day. How can you FUNCTION without the quotation marks, unless you are a txt spk moron?

      • Sadly, this does not appear to work either. At least not the way Samsung phones are set up. So, that rules out begin quote / end quote, open quote / close quote, and quote / unquote. This is so disappointing for a user that is coming from an iPhone where this and a few other commands work almost always and for someone that is a stickler for grammar even when texting or dictating an casual email. On the other hand, I’ve noticed TTS on Android to be much more accurate with obscure things like medication names, but then not picking up on some very basic words. As I do not have a discernible accent, my only conspiracy theory on this subject is that it feels as though if I had a thick accent (for exampke, a nyc based accent or a southern accent) that it would understand me better lol.

        • I use my Samsung phone — although not the Samsung speech engine — and I don’t have any difficulties with speech-to-text. In fact, I think the engine actually processes slightly faster on my Galaxy S5 than on my Nexus 5. Are you sure you’re using the Google Speech Engine, not the default Samsung engine? I also know that Samsung has built in Dragon Naturally Speaking.

  2. When I read that “Smiley Face” and “Sad Face” worked I thought I’d try some others.

    I found that “Tongue Face” also works, but the first time I tried it, Google returned “c**t face” complete with the asterisks – lol.

  3. how about capital letters?or spaces between sentences?I am dictating this as an example.notice the sentences do not start with capital letters.also there are no spaces between the sentences.

    • I think there’s an issue with your settings. I’m dictating this from my phone and it’s working perfectly.it would help if we knew what type of phone and Android version you’re running.

  4. Thanks for responding, Jeffrey. I appreciate you and your website.

    Both my phone and tablet do the same thing. The phone is an HTC PG86100. It’s the 3D camera phone which has Android version 2.3.4 and kernel Yes, it is getting old. :-)

    The tablet is an Asus ME173X with Android version 4.2.1 and kernel 3.4.5.

    I am not sure how to change those settings, but will look into it. Thanks again for your time.

  5. It says I am using the Google Text-to-speech engine. It is using the Android Keyboard for key input. When typing, it does correct capitalization and such.

  6. how do input the work “period”? I have tried repeating it and putting it into different contexts and delays. I just get the punctuation mark.

  7. You don’t have to be a lawyer to need Google’s speech to text to add punctuation. Think highly of yourself? I’m not good enough for you when I need to send a simple two sentence text response to a colleague? It’s quite annoying that Google can’t integrate a way to insert punctuation…. whether through user audible input or automatically through the program itself.

    • It’s not an arrogant opinion, but rather reality. Lawyers want different things from dictation than the general public. Android speech to text works well most of the time. Of course, everyone wants better punctuation and grammar abilities, but STT isn’t at that point.

      • But the punctuation is flawless. And I have a southern accent. I can go on and on dictating and never have to touch my phone. Not sure what version of everything you are using or if your phone and internet are fast enough nut mine works perfectly.

        • I’m pretty sure I’m running Android L. I’m not disagreeing. I use STT more than I actually type. Sometimes I look like a weirdo walking down the street dictating. The problem is, at least for attorneys, the dictation will only get them 90% of the way. Attorneys and doctors look for the ability to perform commands, too.

  8. I’m typing this with my speech to text right now as I talk. I’m just doing this to prove my point. All you have to do is say a sentence. When you finish your sentence be sure to very quickly say period and then go ahead and start your next sentence. If you wait too long it will just spell period.

    Galaxy S3 Snapdragon 4.1.2

  9. Period = period (.)
    Comma = comma (,)
    Question mark = question mark (?)
    Exclamation or exclamation point or exclamation mark = exclamation point (!)
    Enter or new line = moves to a new line
    New paragraph = new paragraph
    hyphen = hyphen (-)
    sad face, smiley face :-( :-)
    colon (works sporadically) = colon (:)

    Must haves – anyone know how to do:
    quote unquoted –
    left parentheses right parentheses

    it would be nice to have
    @ sign

  10. Hi!
    I’m undecided between an iPad and a Samsung Tablet and dictation is the deciding factor for me. I need to dictate in Spanish and punctuation marks are quite important for what I need. I tried both tablets at the store and both recognize SPanish quite well, but the iPad does mark periods, etc quite easly whereas I could not figure out the Samsung (which I would otherwise prefer to buy).

    Any advice or experience with punctuation in Spanish voice to text?


  11. How do you dictate a space? After I end a sentence with a period I often stop, then want to start a new sentence, but it leaves NO space between the period and the start of the new sentence. If I say ‘space’ it just types the word ‘space’. Frustrating, and I can’t find any info /help on this after dozens of internet searches. Can’t believe I’m the only one needing to type a space…

  12. this article: “Android’s speech to text engine isn’t that good.” and “…takes a very distant third fourth fiftieth one-hundreth place.” – Jeff Taylor (November 18, 2013)

    referenced article (making your own dictation system):”However, Android does have one of the best speech to text engines on the planet, and certainly the best engine on any mobile device. Android’s excellent speech engine…” – Jeff Taylor (May 22, 2013)


  13. Hi Jeff, thanks for all you contributions. i have 2 questions: 1. How do i make STT type a capital letter at the start of someone’s name? And, question 2: how do i make it type a capital i instead of a small i when i want to use the word “I”?


  14. Hi guys, thanks for your advice I have found this very interesting, unfortunately none of these commands work in Spanish language, even if you translate them :(

  15. hi jeff, thanks for taking the time to put this together,

    I was just wondering if there was a way to have one screen open and also speech to text at the same time for example I could read an article on the Internet and rewrite it at the same time, without having to pause and exchange screens each time thanks.

        • Except it looks like your voice to text didn’t transcribe properly. I always have a problem getting exclamation marks to work. There’s a certain finesse required, which I guess I don’t have.

  16. Point: While I can’t tell you how the accuracy compares, Nuance’s “Swype + Dragon” has a much more robust STT and includes items such as:
    Paired Punctuation: Open/Close quote, parenthesis, angle-bracket, euro-quote, etc. (Can also use Begin/End, Left/Right. Not quote/unquote.)*
    Punctuation and Signs: exclamation, equals, plus, copyright, trademark, percent, dollar, euro, En-dash, Em-dash, etc.*
    Capitalization Controls: Cap, Caps On/Off, All Caps, All Caps On/Off, No Caps, No Caps On/Off.*
    Space Controls: No Space, No Space On/Off. (… for writing web addresses I guess.)*
    Numeric conversions: ‘one and two fifths’ becomes 1 2/5. ‘half past twelve’ becomes 12:30. Which can be a problem when you need word perfect transcription.
    Smileys: Smiley Face, Winky Face, Frowny Face.*

    Voice Editing Commands are a wash though. For that the desktop version of Dragon is your best bet.

    *See (http://www.nuance.com/ucmprod/groups/dragon/@web/documents/collateral/nc_008229.pdf) for details.

    • That’s quite correct, although few people (perhaps British English) say, “full stop” when dictating. As such, VTT recognizes “period” as a full stop, when you say “period.”

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life, or vice versa. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.