Using the Speak Function in Microsoft Word

I have been writing lots of similar letters recently. When I write, I often rephrase sentences and often move words or sentences around the page. How can I make sure that my writing makes sense? How can I make sure that my writing doesn’t suffer from copy and paste related errors? After a while, the words all seem to run together. I don’t have an editor or proofreader.  Here’s where the Speak Function in Microsoft Word comes in handy.

You can use the Speak function to help proofread your work. I have found that using this function helps me make sure that my writing makes sense. I write my text, then have Word read it back to me. That way I don’t add in the words that I think should be there.

Enabling the speak function is relatively easy. Here’s how to do it.

Adding the Speak Function in Microsoft Word to the Ribbon

I’ve written before about customizing the ribbon. Enabling the Speak function is essentially just adding an extra command to one of your command tabs.

Right click on the ribbon, and select “Customize the Ribbon…”

Image of choices after right clicking the ribbon.

In the window that appears, select “All Commands” from the drop down menu on the left. Scroll down to find the Speak command, then click on it to highlight it.

Image of the Word Options for customizing the ribbon.

In the right hand column, select your personal command tab, and the group to which you want to add the Speak command. If you don’t select a group, you won’t be able to add the command. If you haven’t created your own personal command tab, use the buttons below the right hand column to add a new tab and then a new group. You can rename these using the “Rename…” button. (Read more about customizing the ribbon.)

Once you have the command you want to add selected in the left column and the group you want to add it to selected in the right hand column, click on the “Add>>” button in the center of the window. A button for the Speak function will be added to your tab. I’ve added the “Spelling” and the “Spelling and Grammar” commands as well, then called my group “Editing Tools”.

Image of a custom command group that contains Speak, Spelling, and Spelling and Grammar

Using the Speak Function

To use the speak function, first highlight a section of the text that you would like to have read aloud.

Now click on the tab that contains the speak function, then click on the speak icon. A slightly mechanical voice will begin to read the block of text to you. Follow along. If you hear a mistake, you can either let the reader continue or click again on the icon, which has changed to read “Stop Speaking”.

Image of a customized command group with the Stop Speaking command.

The Speak function isn’t perfect. For example, it does have problems with homographs, words that are spelled the same but have different pronunciations. In the previous paragraph, it pronounced read like “red” instead of “reed”.
I typically work on a paragraph at a time. Doing more than this can allow my mind to wander. Additionally, I want to stop and fix any errors right away, so it doesn’t pay to select much more than a paragraph.

I’ve found numerous mistakes in my writing using the speak function in Microsoft Word. Try it out and see how it works for you.