This post comes courtesy of several questions about Android’s speech to text function. I discussed the feature several times, and it’s one of my favorite Android “add-ons.” Android’s speech to text is so useful that I use it for just about every aspect of my daily life. Some folks expressed frustration with the service, saying that they’re having problems getting accuracy. So, I decided to create a list of “dos and don’ts” for voice.

Android Voice Commands

 Do speak clearly and enunciate

Part of achieving good performance for any speech recognition program is enunciation. And even though Android’s speech to text utility is top notch, it’s still a computer, subject to computer fallibility. If you speech too fast or use garbled pronunciations, the service will fail.

Now, speaking clearly and enunciating doesn’t mean you . . . have . . . to . . . laboriously . . .  speak . . . every . . . syllable . . . and . . . word. But rather, just use more clarity. Google is very good when trying to interpret your jibberish, but some words, by their nature, are easily confused – think “V” and “B” – and Google can make mistakes in the transcription, just as you would.

Speaking clearly and enunciating your words will help.

Don’t forget to personalize your “Voice”

There are plenty of ways to customize the speech recognition software, and “Personalized recognition” is the easiest. Go to Settings > Voice > Personalized recognition from inside the Voice Search app to improve your speech recognition.

Personalized recognition

Also, I know a lot of people get frustrated by Google’s inconsiderate ability to type what you actually mean — i.e. “,” instead of “comma”. If you’re frustrated, don’t forget that you can correct the misplaced word or punctuation by selecting the offending portion and changing the context.

text to type correction

Google will learn your nuances and start frustrating you more by using your correction. Sometimes, this gets frustrating, too.

Also, don’t forget that your can fix some spelling errors in your dictionary. Follow these steps to personalize your Android dictionary.

In general, Google is about 95% effective for me.

Do remember to “Tell Google what to do”

I’m not quite sure where I’d be without voice commands,  since they’re kind of the crux of Google Now.

Google Now Voice Commands

The convenient “Tell Google what to do” list is a recent addition to the search screen, but it’s a scrollable list with a number of suggestions and examples for using voice commands.

Obviously, Google’s tracking the ways you use the app, but being able to set a reminder to “Play Tooth Fairy at 9:30,” so I don’t disappoint The Droid Tot # 1 is priceless.

One of my favorite commands is, “Ok Google send a text message to my wife.” Google will assist in the process without ever making me touch the screen.

Here’s an “oldie but goodie” video showing how Google Now compares to Siri:

And you can be assured that the places where Google falls short won’t be for long.

Don’t forget “practice makes perfect”

Mrs. The Droid Lawyer didn’t use voice commands or speech to text because she didn’t want me gloating over how awesome they were. Typical. Of course, once she made speech to text a semi-habit, she fell in love.

Regular use of the program will help improve accuracy and your own capabilities. This is especially true when you’re trying to get Google to recognize your word and speech patterns. I have much better success using the tool on a regular basis, than when I go days without dictating something.

Don’t forget the microphone

Google Keyboard is my preferred keyboard tool, but decide which one works best for you.

Google Keyboard

The microphone will open the speech to text engine, and allow you to speak your message. I use this for quick replies to text messages, composing email messages, or even as a quasi-Dragon replacement.

Note too, if you’ve lost your microphone from the keyboard, it’s likely because Google recently modified the look and feel of the keyboard, which also eliminates the microphone from the keyboard screen in some apps. Don’t fret, it should be there in other apps, like text messaging. If you open your text messaging app and still can’t find the microphone, it’s likely turned off.

To reactivate the microphone, go to Google Keyboard settingsPreferences Voice input key.

google keyboard voice input key

Voila, the microphone is back.

Do forget you look like an idiot talking to yourself

Nobody wants to be the annoying guy shouting on a cell phone, but if you do speech right, nobody will even notice. Just in case, you should set any fears aside.

Do use voice commands often and wisely

In sum, once you’re more familiar with Android’s speech to text capabilities, you’ll quickly fall in love. Google Now tremendously improves the Android experience, giving you the ability to control aspects of your mobile device with your voice.

Do remember where you are

One of the biggest problems I have with voice-t0-text is remembering my speaking location. Similar to the “speak clearly” recommendation above, I have to be conscious of where I’m trying to use the speech engine. For instance, I’ve learned that voice-to-text doesn’t work well while I’m driving in my car with the windows open. My location is vitally important.

This post was originally published July 3, 2013.

Jeff Taylor

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


Tim · January 28, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Google voice / Android dictation doesn’t spell my husband’s name correctly (spells it Brian in stead of Bryan). Does anyone know how to fix this? I use the dictation function all the time and 99% of the time it’s great. But if Bryan’s name comes into the conversation i always have to go back and correct it.

    Jeff Taylor · March 2, 2016 at 6:28 am

    You can use fix this in the dictionary. Simply add the correct spelling, go back and fix the wrong one a couple of times (usually without dictation), and it should get you back on the road.

mwsmichaelwilliamscott · April 11, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Up until a week or two ago, I used to “dictate” voice-to-text messages and emails simply by press/holding the little microphone on the onscreen keyboard when starting a text or email message. I could do this while NOT connected to WiFi. Now I can’t.
Did something happen in a recent (within the last 10-14 days) update of Android or Google or…..???

Harry S. Anchan · May 18, 2016 at 12:58 pm

I have an Android tablet and an Android phone both of which are using Google keyboard. I have no problems with most of the commands but the, simply doesn’t type. It types the word instead. What’s the solution? Good morning, test, what’s wrong?

Jackie · February 8, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Hi Jeff,

I read through the comments and can’t believe I’m the only one having this issue but I don’t see that anyone else has mentioned it.

I like to use Google voice recognition both when texting and e-mailing with Gmail but it tends to insert some of the most ridiculous capitalization. For example, I was dictating about putting a horse “in the wash rack” and it repeatedly decided that “in The Wash Rack” was what I was looking for. It does this a lot with words that rarely warrant capitalization — very frustrating.

Are there any good fixes? Is there a “Google, quit capitalizing stupid stuff” option? 😉

Thanks for any insight!


    Heather · February 25, 2017 at 10:35 am

    I’ve experienced something similar, where a sentence will have random capitalizations in the middle of it and they’re not proper nouns.

Heather · February 25, 2017 at 10:34 am

This article is very helpful, but I am very surprised I have not heard anyone else who has issues with pronouns. My voice to text is constantly switching pronouns which can completely change the meaning of my message! Any ideas?

kingsinger · April 4, 2017 at 8:41 pm

Is there any easy way to type numerals (i.e., “1” vs. “one”)? For example, if I want to start a list with “1.”, can I do that just with my voice?

Elliander Eldridge · May 8, 2017 at 1:47 pm

I have owned multiple Android phones, both Samsung and Sony, and at no point has a personalized voice texting feature been made available to me. It’s just not there. It would be a great idea if it was a standard part of Android, but it’s clearly not. To emphasize just how ridiculously useless voice texting can be without that, an old computer from the nineties has better voice text capabilities simply because it’s able to learn from me. The fact that I’m offline individual low-end computer can do what my internet-connected phone can’t do speaks volumes. No pun intended.

Different phones seem to handle voice texting a little differently as well. It’s definitely not Universal, and it’s not like it gets better over time either. My Samsung phone, for example, had an annoying habit of clearly hearing everything I said and I would see it typed out exactly the way I said it, and then it would second guess what I said and completely rewrite all of it right in front of me. It’s not that I wasn’t pronouncing it clearly, because it clearly heard me, it just didn’t believe that that’s what I actually said. Sometimes it would actually change something about a scientific subject to street slang and profanity. Usually it would change to something that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, like someone who doesn’t even speak English said those words, and also doesn’t understand sentence structure or spelling or grammar. My Sony phone also tends to change what it hears, but it’s more likely to miss hear me initially and then changed to something a little more accurate, although would also sometimes has a similar problem.

Certain words have never been captured right though and it surprises me that has no real grammar system. For example, no matter how I phrase it, the word “want” comes out ok, unless I put an I in front of it, then he hears, “I wants” every time, but only in the SMS messaging app. A more serious problem is that whereas my Samsung phone would always get punctuation, inserting the correct symbols as I say them, the Sony phone actually spelled them out. Sometimes it will insert them, but usually will spell them out, and there is no button to press to change it so I have to stop what I’m doing to delete what it types and manually press the correct character which kind of goes against the whole point of voice texting to begin with.

Someone needs to take one of those old nineties voice writing programs that learn from the speaker and apply it to Android to replace it’s voice texting.

    TRAVIS MERSETH · May 12, 2017 at 10:46 am

    I would suggest doing a search on how to enable Google Voice on your specific phone. I use Google Voice for everything on my phone and every Android device that I have owned comes with the features. Since it is second nature to me now I don’t recall if I have to enable it when I set up a new phone or not. I know when I was setting up my wife’s Samsung S7 that Samsung has their own proprietary voice control features enabled by default. This could be why you weren’t seeing the option.

    In reference to your comparison to a Windows PC from the nineties I feel that if you get this set up and working properly you will change your views rather quickly.

Pissed off · October 13, 2017 at 1:51 pm

There is no personalized voice suggestion box in the voice settings. You’re a freaking liar.

Marcus (@Marcus42838266) · January 16, 2018 at 11:04 am

Youre being way too generous with Google voice to text over the years it has become much worse than when they first started.
regardless of what it’s supposed to learn it learns nothing from you I have put words in my dictionary but it just ignores the dictionary it doesn’t capitalise even standard words that need capitalising like names and cities.
punctuation never works no matter how hard you try, comma? period

what it needs is a proper voice training app like dragon Naturally Speaking but unfortunately Google Voice only has that ok Google learning module which is basic to say the least.

Kalā · February 14, 2018 at 7:53 am

I have perfect American English, speaking with the most standard accent in America and Google Voice still can’t understand me most of the time. It’s asinine that Google thinks the human colon is a major part of speech more frequent than the punctuation mark. I can count on one hand the number of times I spelled out the word comma in my entire life yet Google routinely types the word out rather than using the punctuation which is literally in 90% of the sentence is anybody ever writes. What’s more, Google seems to have little grasp of fundamental grammatical Concepts and randomly capitalizes words in the middle of sentences, as just happened, puts double spaces between words in the middle of sentences, as just happened, and chooses words that cannot go in the sentence regardless of how Vivid ones imagination. A third grader can compose better sentences than Google Voice. Not surprisingly, however, when I make some stupid Southern drawl or hillbilly accent from the American South, it recognizes words that I absolutely cannot get it to recognize normally. Google Voice should be renamed Google hillbilly. So don’t feel bad, it’s rubbish. 15 years ago, IBM viavoice and Microsoft Office dictation worked far better than Google’s does in 2018. The reason Google doesn’t give us pages of text to read to train Google voice is because they’re only interested and keeping our voice and what we say on there Cloud servers so they can use that information to sell to data mining companies who will turn a tidy profit on it, Google’s main reason for existing. Look at your Google profile, everything you’ve ever said to Google Voice is stored and recorded in a list that isn’t even private. Google doesn’t give you the option to not have your history logged and accessible and still use functions like Google Voice or OK Google. It’s just utter crap.

Richard Plotner · March 5, 2018 at 10:17 am

One thing about the voice-to-text feature is that most notepad/voice-to-text android apps actually work through the phone’s built-in text app. I have a real problem trying to enter, for instance, book ISBN’s. When I speak any number over six digits, the android voice-to-text app translates it into a phone number. For instance, I’ll say “9781610020244”, and the android will enter, “+978-161-002-0244”. Very frustrating. Someone should create a voice to text app that DOESN’T use the built-in android app, which enters numbers as plain text. PLEASE, someone, DO IT!!!

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