I Tested the Read Aloud Feature on Word

If you caught this week’s podcast episode, we talked about reading our work aloud to help catch anything that sounds odd or clunky.  In that episode, I mentioned the fact there are programs that will read your text aloud. 

Well, apparently my version of Microsoft Word has a Read Aloud feature that I didn’t know about.  So, I tried it!

I Tested the Read Aloud feature on Word. Image from Canva of a woman holding up a large speechbubble.

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What Version Do I Have?

Okay, let’s be clear, not all Microsoft Word versions have it.  As of writing this, the Read Aloud is only available on Office 2019, Office 2021 and Microsoft 365.  I currently have a subscription for Microsoft 365 so I have this feature.

If you are not sure what your version of Microsoft Word is, you can try and locate the feature as per below or you can go to File > Account and it should give you the version (in case you want to know).

Where is the Feature?

To see if you have it, open your Microsoft Word, on the Ribbon go to the Review Tab and it is in the category Speech as a button called (helpfully) Read Aloud.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word Ribbon, under the Review tab

How To Use This Feature

It’s easy, just have your text in the Word document, make sure your cursor is at the place you want the read to start.  Then click the Read Aloud button.

This will open a mini dialogue box over to the right.  The controls include a Play/Pause button, Move Forward or Backward a Paragraph buttons and a Settings option, that is shown as open on the image below.

The options allow you to change the reading speed, I personally liked the default for when it was reading my novel to me.

Read Aloud - controls

You can also change the voice from male to female. I actually liked this because depending on the chapter it was reading; I could shift the voice to match the main character in that chapter.  But honestly, having either of these voices was fine for just reading the whole thing.

I tested it on over a dozen pages of text and while it doesn’t (obviously) have the smoothness of a real narrator (think audio-books), I found it was one of the better Read Aloud options I’ve heard.  It’s been a while since I last used a program like this – it was when I worked in an office and had to write audio notes – and I was pleasantly surprised by this.

One tiny issue I found, is that sometimes it doesn’t catch the context of a word so will mis-pronounce it.  For example “dove” was in my manuscript as in “to dive in”.  However, for some reason, it pronounced it “dove” as in the bird.  It didn’t happen all the time, but just something to be aware of.

How Useful Is This?

Honestly, I found it very useful.  I noticed it really made the missing punctuation stand out.  I am awful for missing commas and the like, and having the Read Aloud feature go through the chapter highlighted them all.

It also caught some of my spelling errors (where the word was incorrect but was another correctly spelt word).

I even found both voices to be quite easy to listen to and because I was following along with the text at the same time, I didn’t “drift off” which has been an issue for me with other audio things like audio-books etc.

This feature can be used to listen to other things, not just your manuscript, but I can imagine I will mostly just use it for my manuscripts.

I think I’ll be adding in Read Aloud into my checklist of edits.  One issue with reading aloud your own work, is we do have Error Blindness where you can end up missing the same errors over and over.

It’s one of the reasons, it’s recommended that you change the font size/typeface when doing a read through.  It makes it different enough that you are more likely to spot errors.  This is the same way, reading your own work can have you missing things.

Additional Resource

If you don’t have the Read Aloud feature on Word, you can try out Natural Readers or Jaws.

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Do you use the Read Aloud feature in Word, or with another program?  If so, let me know what you use and how you found it.

I hope you enjoyed this article and if you found it useful, give it a share in case someone else could benefit!

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Happy writing

Signature & logo of Ari Meghlen

tiny-ko-fi_icon_rgb_strokeI write articles on writing, marketing, blogging, organising, social media, books and some random stuff.  I also create free printable resources. If you find my content helpful, entertaining and like what I do, consider supporting me on ko-fi (where you will also find extra content I post) your support means I’m able to keep this blog going and create more things for my readers!

19 thoughts on “I Tested the Read Aloud Feature on Word

  1. Victoria Zigler

    Sounds like it does a great job with the reading. All text to speach software will make the mistakes it did (in particular the mispronouncing because it doesn’t get the context thing). Take it from someone who uses one every day. Still, it’s awesome that features like this exist.

    1. So true, there will always be those things that are mispronounced, though in truth, i mispronounce most things myself lol

      I am just surprised how well it was to say it was part of Word and not a full app I had to buy separately.

      1. Victoria Zigler

        Yes, that is a surprise. I also got a surprise when I got my new laptop about a month ago, and it came with some basic speech software installed. It doesn’t do nearly enough, so I still needed to install Jaws (the one I generally use) to do everything. However, the fact it existed meant I could set things up myself, even before I got Jaws installed, and was a very pleasant surprise. It’s nice they’re starting to think about features like that.

      2. Victoria Zigler

        Jaws is pretty expensive, but it’s the software that makes it possible for visually impaired people like me to do as much as I am online. It’s worth the money (not that I’d object to them reducing the price, or at least making the upgrades cheaper/free once you’ve paid out for it) and I’ve been using it since it was first being used by visually impaired computer users, since my brother and I actually got to go to a place where it was being trialed when we were in our early teens to try it out..

      3. Thanks for letting more know more about Jaws. I know some of the really good ones are a lot more expensive and I wish things like this would become a little cheaper but it does sound like it’s been worth the money. Thanks Tori 🙂

  2. I’ve never thought of that as most of such tools just sound too robotic to me, but I will have to give it a try now that you’ve recommended it. The thing I found most surprising was that it helped you catch missed commas. I didn’t think punctuation really mattered (aside from periods maybe) when it came to reading out loud by a machine.

    Changing the font – it’s something I’ve never heard of… interesting… I don’t know if I wouldn’t find it too distracting, though.

    Why do you think audiobooks make you drift off and this did not?

    1. I felt the same re punctuation, but the lack of pauses when I’d missed a comma were so jarring! lol

      Yes. Apparently changing font or font size (or background colour) all of this “resets your brain” so you stop getting that blindness.

    2. Re audio books, I think it might be because when I do the Read Aloud I do it in small batches. I also stop it every few minutes to fix whatever the voice jars on.

      Whereas with an audio book, I’m just listening and dont have to focus as much and depending if the person has a good voice, i can just lose focus! lol

  3. Great post, Ari. So glad to hear you’ve found using reading programs so helpful. The very last check I do of any MS is a read aloud one. I convert my book to an ebook, load it on my Kindle app, and then use my text-to-speech app on my phone to listen to it. It makes such a difference.

    1. I have never heard of Natural Readers, I’m going to add that link to the article as an additional resource. Thanks for sharing it with me.

      I don’t know if I’d get over my stage fright to read out my work to other people.

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