Proofreading: Make Word read to you

Sometimes, writing is like laying a puzzle. You’ve got some of the pieces, and they’re clean and spotless. Others seem a bit murky, or plain wrong. Maybe you got your boxes mixed up and some belong to another puzzle entirely! However, if you squint at it from a distance, you can sort of make out the whole picture. And the closer it gets to being done, the less you need to squint.

Well, I’m done squinting at Before and After the Wedding! Yesterday, I put in the last puzzle piece, and they all have basically the right shape too. Now it’s a matter of polishing some of those pieces up. In other words, time to start copy editing and proof reading!

Invariably, I produce so many typos in my first drafts, it never ceases to amaze me. And the more I was carried away when I wrote a scene, the more typos there’ll be, or even words replaced with others or completely missing. Except everything’s still there in my mind, so when I reread the scene, I’ll still “see” the way I meant it to read. (It’s almost eerie how this happens!)

Fortunately, there’s an easy remedy, and that’s listening to the words read aloud. And there’s a nifty function for that in Word called text to speech. (Or maybe that’s not the official name, but that’s what I call it.) Text to speech can’t be tricked–it reads exactly what was written. I have it set up so I can activate it with a keyboard shortcut, so I simply listen to a passage, fiddle with it if it sounds off, then listen to it again. The automated voice doesn’t have the talent of a real actor of course, which can make this a bit painful at times, but it works.

If you’d like to try it out yourself, here’s how you set it up in Word 2010. I also have the “Speak” button in the quick access toolbar—those little buttons at the top of the window. (If you only want the button, follow steps 1-4 below. If you only want the keyboard shortcut, follow steps 5-11.)

  1. Click on the little arrow next to the buttons at the very top of the window. (It’s called “Customize Quick Access Toolbar” if you hover over it.)
  2. Choose “More Commands…” on the menu that appears.
  3. At the top where it says “Choose commands from:”, select “All commands”.
  4. Scroll down until you find the “Speak” command. Select it and click “Add>>”. You’ve now added the command to the quick access toolbar (the buttons at the top of the window). Next we’ll set up a keyboard shortcut.
  5. In the list box on the left, select “Customize Ribbon”.
  6. Locate the “Keyboard shortcuts:” label and click the “Customize…” button next to it.
  7. In the “Categories” section, select “All Commands”.
  8. Now you need to locate the speak command in the “Commands” list box, except it’s called “SpeakStopSpeaking” now. I know, confusing. I think it’s because this command both starts speaking and stops speaking (if already speaking).
  9. Once you’ve selected “SpeakStopSpeaking”, put the mouse cursor in the “Press new shortcut key” text field.
  10. Now it’s time to press the keyboard shortuct you want. I use “Alt+T”, but you can pick whatever you like. Notice that what you press will appear in the text field.
  11. Click the “Assign” button.

And that’s it, you’re done! You can now hit “Alt+T” to make Word start or stop reading what you’ve written, or hit the “Speak” button in the quick access toolbar. Note that it only reads selected text, so you need to select something first.

Happy proof-listening! 🙂

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2 Responses to Proofreading: Make Word read to you

  1. Thanks for this! This is fun (especially with erotica)! I put the icon in a “custom group” under “Review” on the ribbon — so that’s an option as well.
    Lots of luck with the book!

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