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 of the 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 ())

I’m noticing there are a lot of comments regarding the performance of periods, spaces, and parenthesis.

Admittedly, there are some problems with the text recognition and performance. But remember that Google’s STT program is not a true dictation program. That means you aren’t going to be able to train STT to perform complex punctuation commands. First and foremost, as I said above, STT is conversational versus true dictation. Thus, you eliminate complex function commands for less complex commands.

For example, Jack Calhoun, wants to be able to add three periods with spaces between them — . . . — to his dictated sentences. This is a useful texting or commenting technique, especially when you’re trying to show a pause in time in thoughts or conversation. Unfortunately, that type of editing is beyond Google’s capability right now. When you try, you’re going to see something like, “. space. Space.”, as opposed to the “. . .” he’s wanting. Again, it’s a limitation of the program, and partially beyond the design purpose.

Now, as far as the issue with creating open or closed quotation marks, this is just plain stupid. Google should be able to add quotes.

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.

I also find that the accuracy of the dictation depends a lot on your location. Obviously, quiet areas in your office or home will make the speech engine more accurate. If you’re in your car or another busy location, I find the engine isn’t great, but speech to text still works relatively 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. For me, Google’s dictation engine works fine when I’m sending short texts or dictating small briefs. It also helps to proofread your dictation before sending it off, since grammar and spelling errors definitely lower professionalism.

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

This post was originally published November 18, 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+.


SierraLeone · December 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm

“smiley face” is also a command

SierraLeone · December 19, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Smiley face sad face and KISSY face also work

    Renee · March 25, 2015 at 11:30 am

    you can say dash for -. And you can say the word dot for period, as well.

    ScottS · June 1, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    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?

      Jeff Taylor · June 1, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      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.

        ScottS · June 1, 2015 at 11:12 pm

        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

        ScottS · July 16, 2015 at 8:16 am

        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

        Teri Dee · November 10, 2016 at 5:17 pm

        I am not getting capitals on my sentences either. I do maybe 1 out of 6 sentences

          Holly Vaughn (@Cambeie) · January 7, 2017 at 4:41 pm

          Hold the button next to the spacebar on your keyboard and click on the gear to get your settings. Somewhere in your keyboard settings, many times there is a setting that will Auto Capitalize the first letter of the new sentence after a period. There is sometimes also an option that will let you double space to automatically place a period at the end of a sentence and a space to start you off on your new sentence. See if this might solve the issue for you folks? Also, do realize it depends on HOW your previous sentence ENDS. It HAS to end with a period. If it ends with quotes or parenthesis or anything else, it will not Auto Cap the first word. Just to let you know.

        Bryce Harding · January 6, 2017 at 7:30 pm

        Check to make sure it’s not putting a space between the last word of the sentence and the period. Sometimes it does that to me, but once I put the period back therefore removing the space it automatically puts the space back in its proper place and automatically capitalizes the first word of the next sentence for me

      Ferdinand · July 5, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      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.

        ScottS · July 16, 2015 at 8:18 am

        My cell phone as the automatic capitalization but not the automatic spacing setting? Any other suggestions?

      Nancy Dandy West · September 23, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      There are settings for voice command that you can access easily. Bottom left of your keyboard should be the symbol key and to the right of that is your microphone icon. Press and hold the microphone icon and you will see options such as smiley faces, and a settings wheel icon. Go into the settings and you can change things such as capitalize the first letter of each sentence. Good luck!

      Taylor Gray · January 13, 2017 at 9:18 am

      Just start talking, the space will be inserted there for you and the next word will be capitalized. Only works the first time. if you start by fucking with it you will have to press the shift to get a capital.

      DDST · July 27, 2017 at 12:46 am

      I think it’s related to your keyboard settings. My settings are set to automatically start the next work with a capital after a period. I also have a period added if I double space after a word.

j · December 24, 2013 at 10:35 pm

you can also say the words “smileyface” and “sadface” and Google will automatically insert the emoticon.

Josh · January 7, 2014 at 3:00 pm

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”!

    Dan · January 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    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.

      Jeffrey Taylor · January 16, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      The hard part really is not pausing too long between the commands. I suspect that Google will tweak some settings to allow more dictation-like commands.

        mitch · April 17, 2015 at 4:01 am

        Would be nice if they gave you the option to use dictation, or just regular speak, maybe they will implement a “settings” tab strictly for dictating ^.^

          Jeff Taylor · April 24, 2015 at 6:03 am

          I doubt Google will expand the dictation feature, at least in terms of what lawyers want. Dictation, in general, isn’t really used by most of the non-professional world.

      Jo-Ann · February 1, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Excellent! Works like a charm.

      Doug · February 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      This is exactly right and solved the mystery for me. The only thing I would add is that you can say the punctuation and “new paragraph” at any time. You don’t need to say it right after dictating your sentence.

        Charlie · March 5, 2014 at 3:12 pm

        Yup–the only requirement seems to be that you can’t pause much between saying the punctuation command and saying “new line” or “enter”.

      Samy · April 14, 2014 at 9:49 am

      Thanks, this was driving me crazy. Also, as an aside, learned that google by default likes to put asterisks over cuss words….

        Jeffrey Taylor · April 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm

        Yeah, you can change that. Sometimes it’ll change clean words into cuss words.

        Jeffrey Taylor · April 14, 2014 at 6:07 pm

        That could be an interesting experiment: determine what clean words text to speech will turn into cuss words.

        Lorraine Copland · May 13, 2015 at 2:32 am

        That is hilarious. I just had to try this out even though I hardly ever swear.

      ScottS · June 11, 2015 at 11:11 pm

      I’m trying to figure out how to make a space at the end of a sentence. if anyone can help me with the right command I would surely appreciate it. thanks a lot.

    Micah Thomason · October 22, 2015 at 1:56 pm


    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?

      Jeff Taylor · October 25, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      No, not a full list. But there are sporadic lists.

Marie Stockwell · January 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I only wish I could use quote unquote.

    Mark · July 17, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    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?

    Humphrey Benfufay · February 24, 2015 at 4:48 am

    “begin quote” or “open quote”
    “close quote” or “end quote”

      Lauren · November 3, 2015 at 11:13 am

      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.

        Jeff Taylor · November 3, 2015 at 3:47 pm

        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.

          Sandra Price · December 31, 2017 at 11:33 am

          I have tried both – Samsung and Google Speech Engine, and neither of them allows me to dictate open quote/close quote, or quote/unquote. If you’re doing it, Jeff, please let me know.

steve · February 8, 2014 at 4:55 am

On my Android phone the commands only work when the phone is also connected to the internet. Does anyone have a solution for this?

    Jeffrey Taylor · February 10, 2014 at 8:38 am

    That’s the only time they’ll work. Voice commands use the Google engine to perform their tasks.

    Todd · March 15, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Settings -> Language & input -> Voice Search -> Offline speech recognition

    From there you can download various offline languages. I think this was introduced with KitKt, Android 4.2.2

      Jeffrey Taylor · July 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Thanks, Todd. Offline speech is a new addition and works great.

      droid · June 13, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      I have the offline and it still requires net.

Jay Dee · February 14, 2014 at 9:05 am

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.

    Jeffrey Taylor · February 14, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Jay, your comment made me spit water all over myself, I laughed so hard.

    CharlieTuna · September 13, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I tried the “Tongue face” and mine also did the “c**t face” but then came up with a photo of my EX!

Karin · February 25, 2014 at 11:12 am

these all work on my Galaxy 4. Thanks for the insights! 🙂

Jane · April 8, 2014 at 11:53 pm

“exclamation mark” also works

    Jeffrey Taylor · April 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    I also found out “colon” works, but I can’t get consistent performance.

      Count Badger of Hunt (@badgerhunt) · April 14, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      Try prune juice.

        Jeffrey Taylor · April 15, 2014 at 1:31 am

        That’s funny!

        James · March 23, 2017 at 3:20 am


        Now that’s​ funny right there, I don’t care who you are!

        They ain’t right, God bless the starving kids in New Guinea! GIT-R-DONE!

    Yvonne Nyborg · March 28, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I’m glad you mentioned that Jane! I haven’t had any luck with “exclamation point” – it spells it out every time – but “exclamation mark” works just fine!

Lamar · April 22, 2014 at 8:27 am

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.

    Jeffrey Taylor · April 22, 2014 at 9:10 am

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

Lamar · April 22, 2014 at 9:28 am

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.

    Jeffrey Taylor · April 22, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Which keyboard are you using? I prefer the Google Keyboard.

Lamar · April 22, 2014 at 10:36 am

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.

Scott Maddix · April 28, 2014 at 4:09 am

Now all we need is a way to spell out unfamiliar words. Or backspace.

    Jeffrey Taylor · April 28, 2014 at 6:26 am

    I’d like to see the ability to “undo that” or ” delete that.”

    mikaminf · January 28, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Yes, it would really be cool to be able to spell words into the Android phone. That way I can call or text non common words.

John Gary · May 8, 2014 at 11:34 pm

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.

    Jessie · May 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I found that if you use the word “period” in the middle of the sentence and watch as it is typing, initially it will show up as a punctuation mark but will change if you continue speaking a a normal pace. If you pause however, then you will have trouble. my trial sentence that worked was something along the lines of “In my second period class I have thirty students.” (I am a teacher in case that was obvious lol)

    John Willis · January 1, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I just spell period. like p e r i o d or any other word that comes out as something else. my question is can you send the dang message with a voice command

    Krishna · February 1, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Try saying “point” to insert the “.” And start a new sentenct.

    I am from India. Until a few months ago the word period used to do the trick. but then stopped working. Now i need to say “point”.

      Jeff Taylor · February 1, 2015 at 8:48 am

      I have no problem using “period”.

Freakshow · August 5, 2014 at 4:23 am

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.

    Jeffrey Taylor · August 5, 2014 at 7:09 am

    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.

      freakshow · August 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      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.

        Jeffrey Taylor · August 5, 2014 at 1:37 pm

        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.

Freakshow · August 5, 2014 at 5:05 am

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

Mark Lewis · August 10, 2014 at 8:28 am

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

Dermott Beverley · August 11, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Hey thanks a lot for this guys. It’s really helped me. I did not know that you could use the offline speech.

Bernard · August 27, 2014 at 12:21 am

that’s not correct, google voice typing has all the punctuation commands as well

    joey · September 29, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Pics or it didn’t happen. 🙂

Dasu · August 29, 2014 at 3:13 pm

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?


Fettermann · September 24, 2014 at 4:25 pm

“dash” gives –

Derwuffman · September 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

“dot dot dot” gives …

Alex. H. · October 13, 2014 at 9:34 am

“negative” often gives “-“.

space · October 27, 2014 at 9:44 am

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…

    Holly Vaughn (@Cambeie) · January 7, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    If you’re using Speech to Text, you don’t need to say space. Just start speaking your next sentence and it’ll automatically put in a space. Like this (i’m going to type it like I’d speak it, without capitals, and typing out punctuation as words):

    my son and I went to the store today to pick up some extra stuff to make those homemade pizzas you like so much period you know how we get the cheap rising crust store brand three cheese frozen pizzas question mark and then make them super epic by piling on tons of extra toppings like tomatoes comma sausage comma mini pepperoni comma bacon comma onion comma bell pepper and minced garlic period we sprinkle a mixture of grated parmesan and romano cheese then add some spices like garlic powder comma onion powder comma thyme leaf comma oregano and parsley period and finally comma cover the top of the pizza copiously with a huge beehive mound of shredded mozzarella cheese that goes all the way to the edge of the pizza exclamation heat it through until the cheese is fully melted and browned a little if you wish period cut the pizza into thinner slices than usual for dipping and pour a good comma flavorful marinara sauce into a bowl for each person to dip the pizza in period

    I hope that helped. I made it long enough to have several sentences in it. You would speak it into your microphone exactly like that. You’d never say the word space at all. Just say those words above and see what happens. =)

    NOTE TO ALL – That’s my actual recipe for pizza, by the way! My own personal recipe with cheapo store-brand frozen “cardboard circle” pizza as the base! Feel free to try it with your own toppings and enjoy! =)
    (I’ll copy/paste it below with correct punctuation so it’s easier to read.)

    The brand of marinara that I use is called Vito Corleone… wait, that’s the Godfather… heh. No, Vito Marcello (a spaghetti sauce). It’s a bit pricey ($4.50 here in Maine) but I only use it for marinara and after I put less than I need in the bowl, then add a little bit (not much) of water to dilute and mix to make it go further.

    There are only 3 flavors. One is tomato & basil (my kind). One has anchovies. And one has hot peppers. But the flavor is AMAZING.


    -=- Your choice store brand frozen pizza. (works better when are kind of sparse like on cheap or store-brand pizzas. even deluxe works okay)
    -=- Add toppings of your choice, for example tomatoes, sausage, mini pepperoni, bacon, ham, burger, onion, mushrooms, olives, bell pepper, minced garlic.
    -=- Sprinkle a mixture of grated parmesan and romano cheese or just parmesan
    -=- Add spices, like garlic powder, onion powder, thyme leaf, oregano and parsley
    -=- Cover the top of the pizza copiously with a huge beehive mound of shredded mozzarella cheese that goes all the way to the edge of the pizza
    -=- Spray the pizza pan with Pam (especially Pam Olive Oil if you have it)
    -=- Sprinkle the sprayed area of the pan with small-moderate amount of: salt, oregano, garlic powder, parsley
    -=- Set pizza on top of sprayed & seasoned area of pan
    -=- Heat pizza through according to box directions until the cheese is fully melted and browned a little if you wish
    -=- Cut the pizza into thinner slices than usual for dipping
    -=- Pour a good, flavorful marinara sauce into a bowl for each person to dip the pizza in

Uta · December 7, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Wink wink gives 😉

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