Understanding How Users Invoke Custom Skills

Users need to use a phrase supported by the Alexa service in combination with the invocation name for a custom skill to request information, ask a question, or tell Alexa to do something (“Alexa, ask Daily Horoscopes for the horoscope for Gemini”).

There are generally two main ways users begin interacting with a custom skill:

  • Invoking the skill and making a specific request at the same time (“intent”).
  • Invoking the skill with no specific request (“no intent”).

Invoking a Skill with a Specific Request (Intent)

Users can combine your invocation name with an action, command or question. This sends the service for your skill an IntentRequest with the specific intent that corresponds to the user’s request. The action, command, or question included in the phrase comes from the sample utterances you define and map to intents.

There are several ways users can combine your invocation name with the request:

  • Request followed by the invocation name, with a supported connecting word in between – this can make the phrase flow more naturally: “Alexa, get today’s Taurus report from Daily Horoscopes”.
  • Invocation name and request provided in a supported phrase with “ask”, “tell”, and other phrases: “Alexa, Ask Daily Horoscopes about Taurus”.

In addition, users can optionally include additional words around the utterance:

  • “the” can be included before the invocation name: “Alexa, give me my Taurus horoscope from the Daily Horoscopes” (in this example, the invocation name is just “Daily Horoscopes” and the user added in the word “the”).
  • Certain phrases can be included before the entire phrase:
    • “Can you…”
    • “Let’s…”
    • “I want to…” / “I wanna…”

      For example: “Alexa, can you give me my Taurus horoscope from Daily Horoscopes”. “Alexa, I want to order a car from Car Fu.”

  • Users can include “please” at the end of the utterance:
    • “Ask Daily Horoscopes to give me the horoscope for Taurus, please”.

The following table summarizes the set of supported phrases for invoking your skill with an intent. In these examples, the request portion (a sample utterance) is shown in italics, while words defined by Alexa are shown in bold.

Invocation Phrase Examples

<some action> <connecting word> <invocation name>

where the <connecting word> is one of the following:

by, from, in, using, with

give me my Taurus horoscope using Daily Horoscopes.

tell me the horoscope for Taurus from Daily Horoscopes.

order a car from Car Fu.

Ask <invocation name> <connecting word> <some action>

where the <connecting word> is one of the following:

to, about, for, if, whether

Ask Daily Horoscopes to give me the horoscope for Taurus.

Ask Daily Horoscopes about Taurus

Ask Daily Horoscopes for Taurus

Ask my ski reporter if there is snow at my favorite resort today

Ask my ski reporter whether there is snow at my favorite resort today

Ask <invocation name> <some action>

(note that there is no connecting word between “ask” and the command or question in this variation).

Ask Daily Horoscopes the Taurus report today

Ask <invocation name> <question beginning with a supported question word such as ‘what’, ‘how’, etc.>

(in this variation, the question word must be part of the sample utterance)

Ask recipes how do I make an omelet?

Ask Daily Horoscopes what’s the horoscope for Taurus

Tell <invocation name> <connecting word> <some action>

Where the <connecting word> is one of the following:

to, that

Tell scorekeeper to give ten points to Stephen

Tell scorekeeper that Stephen has ten points.

Tell <invocation name> <some action>

(note that there is no connecting word between “tell” and the command or question in this variation).

Tell Daily Horoscopes I want my Taurus horoscope today

Search <invocation name> for <some action>

Search Daily Horoscopes for Taurus

Open <invocation name> for <some action>

Open Daily Horoscopes for Taurus

Additional invocation phrases combined with “and”:

  • Talk to <invocation name> and <some action>
  • Open <invocation name> and <some action>
  • Launch <invocation name> and <some action>
  • Start <invocation name> and <some action>
  • Resume <invocation name> and <some action>
  • Run <invocation name> and <some action>
  • Load <invocation name> and <some action>
  • Begin <invocation name> and <some action>

Talk to Daily Horoscopes and give me the horoscope for Taurus

Open Daily Horoscopes and give me the horoscope for Taurus

Launch Daily Horoscopes and give me the horoscope for Taurus

Start Daily Horoscopes and give me the horoscope for Taurus

Resume Daily Horoscopes and give me the horoscope for Taurus

Run Daily Horoscopes and give me the horoscope for Taurus

Load Daily Horoscopes and give me the horoscope for Taurus

Begin Daily Horoscopes and give me the horoscope for Taurus

Use <invocation name> <connecting word> <some action>

Where the <connecting word> is one of the following:

and, to

Use Daily Horoscopes and get the horoscope for Taurus

Use Daily Horoscopes to get the horoscope for Taurus

Ensuring that the Sample Utterances Support the Invocation Phrases

All of the phrases described in this document are available for all skills. You do not need to enable the specific phrases. However, you do need to write sample utterances that flow naturally with these phrases.

For example, if all of your sample utterances are phrased as questions (“what is the horoscope for Taurus”), then phrases that work with noun or verb utterances won’t flow naturally. Users are unlikely to say something like “tell Daily Horoscopes what is the horoscope for Taurus,” as this is not a natural way to ask this question. This reduces the number of useful invocation phrases.

For a better user experience, provide a large variety of sample utterances written in different forms:

  • Noun utterances (“the horoscope for…”)
  • Verb utterances (“give me the horoscope for…”)
  • Question utterances (“what is the horoscope for…”)

Test how your utterances sound when combined with the invocation phrases shown in the table above. Write utterances that work with as many of the invocation phrases as possible.

Invoking a Skill with No Specific Request (No Intent)

Users can begin interacting with your skill without providing a specific question, request, or command. This sends the service for your skill a LaunchRequest.

At a minimum, users can just say the wake word (“Alexa”) and your skill’s invocation name. For example, “Alexa, Daily Horoscopes” would invoke the skill with the invocation name “Daily Horoscopes.”

Ways to start a skill with no intent:

Starting Phrase Example
<invocation name> Alexa, Daily Horoscopes
Ask <invocation name> Alexa, Ask Daily Horoscopes
Begin <invocation name> Alexa, Begin Trivia Master
Do <invocation name> Alexa, Do Trivia Master
Launch <invocation name> Alexa, Launch Car Fu
Load <invocation name> Alexa, Load Daily Horoscopes
Open <invocation name> Alexa, Open Daily Horoscopes
Play <invocation name> Alexa, Play Trivia Master
Play the game <invocation name> Alexa, Play the game Trivia Master
Resume <invocation name> Alexa, Resume Trivia Master
Run <invocation name> Alexa, Run Daily Horoscopes
Start <invocation name> Alexa, Start Daily Horoscopes
Start playing <invocation name> Alexa, Start playing the game Trivia Master
Start playing the game <invocation name> Alexa, Start playing the game Trivia Master
Talk to <invocation name> Alexa, Talk to Daily Horoscopes
Tell <invocation name> Alexa, Tell Daily Horoscopes
Use <invocation name> Alexa, Use Daily Horoscopes