How to get a document to read to you

Text to speech

If you signed up to my newsletter when it launched, you might’ve received a limited edition email. There was a typo in it. *Winces*

I’d spent so long gearing myself up to actually do the newsletter. So long working my way around the software. And oh so long making sure the emails were just right.

By the time it was ready to go live I was sick of the sodding sight of it all.

So I shared the link. Off it went. A friend sent me a snap of the typo.

The email wasn’t ‘just right’.

I removed the extra O. I reread the email. And there were a few sentences that could be that bit tighter. Punchier. There always are.

So I made a couple of tweaks. Set it live. Uploaded a few new clients who’d opted in.

And when one of them replied to that email? I spotted a new error. One I’d introduced when I’d fannied about with it.

I’d written two words two words twice.

I’d forgotten to do the one thing I REALLY NEED TO DO when I write my own stuff.

What about you?

You’ve written it. Edited it. Worked through your colleague’s suggestions and client’s amends. Edited it again. Eaten four Kinder Happy Hippos for sugar and sanity. Done your best to save the fifth for after you’ve proofed it. You proofread it. Your eyes roll back in your head. The sugar’s not kicked in yet.

There are some things we do need to check ourselves. Think practice and practise.

But what about those little slips that aren’t spelling mistakes but they still shouldn’t be there? Like my doubling up.

What we need is someone to read it back to us!

However much I might want Xena Warrior Princess to tuck me in and read me a bedtime story, she’s not here to help.

No. I have a professional reader-er of words. An automated voice that can’t pronounce ‘proofreading’ properly and whose speech makes those little slips stand out.

Text tech

Text to speech (TTS) tech reads your digital copy back to you. No more reading it aloud yourself. Especially when you’re really just ‘reading’ it from memory because you’ve spent days writing and honing that copy and you particularly pored over the third sentence in the second paragraph to really get your clients hooked in.

You know what it says. You know what it said before it became what it says. And you know what it means. Whether it says what it means or not.

Making your mind up

The TTS you need depends on the document format you’re typing in. And what you want it for. Word and Google Docs have a different way of doing things.

Maybe you want something to read what you’ve written back to you. Or maybe you prefer listening rather than reading. You want something to read webpages to you too. These options tend to be free.

If you want something that’ll read emails and other web apps, you’ll probably need to pay for swish software.

TTS cuts out having to listen to your own intonation and flow. You hear it differently. You can speed it up. And then you can slow it down. You can’t get Cheryl Baker to read it back to you but some software gives you a choice of speakers. And accents.

We don’t always have people who can have a squiz over our copy for us. Even if we do, UK English Daniel and US English Serena don’t need fuelling with coffee or have campaigns to manage. They won’t judge you for all those little crispy Happy Hippo bits you’ve got stuck in your keyboard.

Using Word

If you use Word, The Read Aloud option may already be in the Review tab. It’s near the left.

Word Read Aloud Button

If not, you can add it to the toolbar. Head over to the Customize Quick Access Toolbar symbol that’s so small you’d never know a really helpful button was lurking in the blue ribbon. Select More Commands.

Word Read Aloud Quick Access Toolbar

Find the Read Aloud command (or Speak if it’s an older version) and add it to the toolbar. Click OK and you’re done.

Word Options Quick Access Toolbar

If you like, you can change the speakers in the Text to Speech settings in your Windows Control Panel. I did like. But I couldn’t do it.

It shows me the different voice options (I’m all for Susan). But whichever I pick, the same posh bloke reads it to me. George’s intonation is pretty bad. But it helps me hear when things sound off, don’t make sense or come across differently to how I’d read it.

Using Google Docs

I only use G Docs now and again. I write my own copy in Word. Blame middle school. I installed the Read & Write Chrome extension because it was the first one I found. That’s how I do tech.

It does what I need. And I can change the speaker too. Although US English Tom sounds like something built into Terminator’s Skynet system to take down John Connor. But this really isn’t the place to get into the war against artificial intelligence.

I found another Chrome extension just now. There’ll be loads but I’m tech lazy. Natural Reader lets you read webpages as well as G Docs. And it has its own web browser: naturalreaders.com.

I’ve not used it, so if it’s duff it’s nowt to do with me.

Back chat

Now you’re all set up, let your new chatty pals get to it. Scoff that last Happy Hippo in the box. Shake off those crumbs before you head off to that meeting.

I’ve remembered to run Read Aloud myself this time. And there are no crumbs here. I’m all about the 99p mint Matchmakers at the moment.