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+.


notuserfriendly · December 10, 2014 at 8:53 am

Stack Exchange has a huge list… have not tried them yet.

anonymous · January 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm

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)


anonymous · January 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm

oh btw, the Swype keyboard includes integrated Dragon Dictation features.

Barbie · February 22, 2015 at 2:27 am

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”?


Barbie · February 22, 2015 at 10:12 am

Thanks Jeff, I appreciate the help:-).

jaime · April 1, 2015 at 10:25 pm

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 🙁

    Jeff Taylor · April 6, 2015 at 6:14 am

    That doesn’t surprise me.

    CharlieTuna · September 13, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Jaime….I use it by installing the language and that specific keyboard on my android. (on PC I plug in a specific keyboard)
    I can use Russian, and Latvian this way.

Prasad · April 14, 2015 at 2:47 am

How do you insert, delete a word in google voice type & send a message by voice type?

David · April 15, 2015 at 8:04 am

has anybody figured out how to add a space or a backspace or to delete a previous word or letter?

rob · May 4, 2015 at 11:39 pm

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.

    Jeff Taylor · May 5, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Why wouldn’t you just copy and paste the information? Unless you’re using a Samsung device, I’m not aware of any way to run dual screens.

      rob · May 5, 2015 at 6:29 am

      Yes..copy and paste worksthat is one option exclamation mark exclamation mark

        Jeff Taylor · May 5, 2015 at 6:35 am

        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.

      Cdc · November 17, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Maybe he wants to plagiarize the article!

Geff · August 12, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Okay, the only thing I am missing is the 😀 emoji. How can you dictate that?

Dave Ferree · September 6, 2015 at 7:07 pm

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 ( for details.

cody · November 1, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Full stop is the proper dictation for period, as period is a word we use for many other things.

    Jeff Taylor · November 1, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    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.”

KT · December 25, 2015 at 3:49 pm

I’ve been into Voice Diction (Dragon Naturally Speaking) since b4 we had smart phones. And Nuance’s “Swype + Dragon” App was almost as good as the full program. However each time they update the App, they seem to fix 1 thing, and ruin 3 more.

Just downloaded the lastest Google Keyboard w/ voice dictation (to my Samsung Galaxy Note 4). The recognition is as good or better than Swype+Dragon – – however only the most basic punctuation commands work. (like period, comma, etc. )
Line Break & Paragraph Break also seem to work fine.

From that “guaranteed to work” list above – – almost everything from Ellipsis down doesn’t work for me.

Bummer, guess I’ll try downloading the newest version of Swype + Dragon. To see if they’ve fixed (or most likely) ruined anything else with the App.

melissa · February 9, 2016 at 3:04 pm

how do u get it to write a hashtag

    Jeff Taylor · March 2, 2016 at 6:26 am

    Say “pound sign” or “hashtag”.

      Heather Moreau · November 28, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      How do you get it to write the hashtag with no spaces for Instagram? My always at the spaces and I have to go back and delete them!

        Lisa · January 11, 2017 at 11:21 am

        I was searching the SAME thing and cant find an answer 🙁

Marcus · March 14, 2016 at 5:09 pm

Well why the hell does this stupid program right down Cooma rather than putting down a comma 50% of the time. Those retards at google expect us to trust their self driving cars but yet they cant even get comma to work properly.

R Rabinovici · March 14, 2016 at 6:38 pm

Although the title says “for Android”, in many scenarios, it might be even more helpful to have that capability on our PCs / laptops. In that case, “Speechnotes” (at is a free dictation text editor that works in Chrome. It’s the highest rated in its category on the Chrome store (4.7 stars). Supports most useful punctuation commands – more than what Google gives.

KT · March 15, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Update – to my comment from earlier. re. the Android Dictation App. (Swype + Dragon, from Nuance)
It’s Working Awesome again. You can dictate complete paragraphs, with full punctuation and it works better than any other voice dictation app on the market. It’s the closest thing to using Dragon Naturally Speaking on a PC.

The biggest pain so far is that it frequently types “end” when you say “and.” But I’ve noticed if you don’t Pause after saying “and” it usually gets it right. (at least 2/3 of the times anyways).

But otherwise it looks like they fixed the bugs and it works really well. Plus their Swype keyboard system works great too, imho. But they did invent the system, so it makes sense they’d get it right.

Jeff Edmonds · March 30, 2016 at 9:13 am

I had a lot of success early on when I first bought this Tab S about 7 months ago. All the punctuation commands work now instead of an! It it types out exclamation point.
Enter does not work Karma does not work comma comma comma good example in this sentence.

New paragraph seems to work… xcetera doesn’t work

My question is is there any way to edit these commands?

anon · May 14, 2016 at 9:14 am

Word apostrophe from your list. It does not work.

Steve Aron · June 3, 2016 at 3:25 pm

What I’m wondering is this: Is there something I can set in the settings of my android phone (or iPhone) that can make it so that whenever I use my voice to write something, it will NEVER write the word “comma” or “Kama” in response to me saying “comma”? I would love it if there were a way to do that. I can’t think of a single instance in all the time I’ve used the voice texting features on smart phones in which I really wanted my phone to write out the words “comma” or “period” or “exclamation point”. That should be the exception, not the rule.

    Scott · June 3, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Well my Android does a pretty good job with that, but every so often it writes out the punctuation,and can go on doing that for day or two? I’m guessing it a glitch?

    Kirby Schroeder · June 4, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Exactly. How hard can that be?? When I say “Comma” I ALWAYS mean the punctuation mark. Always. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t expect Google Now to be thinking ahead of me. Instead, the developers decided that the word “comma” probably means the word “comma” and maybe rarely means the symbol “,”. Because Google Now is about “conversational” interactions. Apparently ones in which people use and mean the full the word “comma” a great, great deal (not). The thing is, as we are thinking up a sentence, we “think” the symbol “comma”, and we always (ALWAYS) mean for the symbol to appear. Who are these teenagers or foreigners who think anyone anywhere means the word “comma” when speaking to Google Now?? I am sure they are the ones who graduated in the top 5% if their class from UC Berkeley (do I sound frustrated?? You bet! I can see you are too).

    But we rave against a machine.

      Kirby Schroeder · June 4, 2016 at 2:14 am

      …”of” their class. I meant “of”. It’s late.

      Daniel123321 · June 9, 2016 at 1:03 am

      Yeah, finally I found someone who speaks out what I am thinking. It is so annoying … I am not a english teacher so I just never need to spell out words like comma. And what the hell, that is not a lawyer problem … even if I only text one sentence there is probably a comma in it. Especially in the german language we have so many commas.

      I am going to try the nuance keyboard. should be the same engine siri runs on … well and siri works.

    Adam Holdsworth · June 15, 2016 at 5:06 am

    Good grief and thank goodness! I thought this was a problem only I seemed to experience as a result of my strong London accent. I’ve tried changing the dictionary so that the short cut comma and karma is replaced with an actual , and I’ve changed the input setting to Australian English, but to no avail. I really hope Google fix this. I’m going crazy. Swype’s Dragon doesn’t make this error, but I don’t like the swiping experience as much as I like Swiftkey, which takes you to Google STT engine. And in most other respects the Google STT is at least as good.

Kirby Schroeder · June 4, 2016 at 2:03 am

Except that when I say “Two things we need colon sunflower oil and and hydrogen peroxide” wanting Google now to write down “Two things we need: sunflower oil and hydrogen peroxide” I get instead the sentence “two things we need calling sunflower oil and hydrogen peroxide”. It would be neat if the colon were in any sense “guaranteed” to work. Instead I get “calling”. Which is not what I want or meant. Which is pretty stupid.

    Kirby Schroeder · June 4, 2016 at 2:18 am

    And I can’t even TEACH Google Now what I really mean. It insists that its vocabulary is best for everyone and always. That makes it kind of a pompous a$$. Way to go, Google.

Kirby Schroeder · June 6, 2016 at 3:24 am

And one final thought from me: its fine if Google Now wants to have all of its transcriptions fundamentally conversational, and to use words like “comma” and “colon” (and “calling”) instead of the punctuation the speaker meant when he/ she said those words. But because we are talking about written English, and because punctuation MATTERS in written English, the obligation then falls on Google Now to automatically include that punctuation in the speaker’s sentence. Which it is not currently designed to do at all. And even if it somehow WERE “designed” to do that, my intuition is that it would simply get it wrong a large majority of the time, and would get it wrong in ways that, once again, really matter. We are trying to do you a favor, Google Now, by telling you ourselves what punctuation we mean and where we mean it. Taking that away by using full words instead of symbols and NOT providing the replacement algorithm (of almost unimaginable complexity) to do it for us is like giving car drivers the keys to airplanes and telling them “It’s faster! It’s better! There are no turn signals! Go fly it!” and expecting us not to crash into each other because you didn’t include the radar. If you are going to start handing out jet planes, you need to have anticipated the need to replace the usual tools used by car drivers to negotiate their environments, not just tell them, “You’re gonna love it!” and walking away. That’s all.

Harriet Cook · June 9, 2016 at 2:55 pm

I have watched my spoken “exclamation point” be type as the symbol and before I can utter the word to begin my next sentence my Android changes the correct symbol to the spelled out words! Maddening. Even more exasperating is for 1 1/2 years STT worked great. The last 6 months it is literally a crap shoot if it will write ANYTHING after the bell dings indicating it’s readiness to listen. I’ll try 3&4 times, nothing…have to revert to touch. I was initially head over heels with my Moto X. Not anymore. They screwed with it.

Maesa · July 3, 2016 at 3:49 pm

I am a writer and I have to dictate my novels all the time. But I can’t use inverted commas on my Google keyboard, can anyone?

Jesse Kelly · October 12, 2016 at 7:24 am

Is there anyway I can get my Android to recognize the word “period” as punctuation and not literally type the word “period”. I read above I can use “dot” but would like to figure out why “period” isn’t working in the first place. Tks.

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