Tame your computer - read it out loud!

In her regular series for Cambridge Network members - now in its 15th year - software training expert Karen Roem offers handy tips to help you 'Tame your computer'. This week she explains how you can listen to Hazel, George or Susan stumble over the mistakes in your draft email or document (Outlook and Word 365).

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Earlier this month I wrote a tip about 10 clever things you can do with your spacebar – other than obviously adding a space between words during typing.

Well, I forgot one… ALT + CTRL + SPACEBAR to read text out loud and highlight each word as it’s read.

I realise it’s not a very intuitive keyboard shortcut and I cannot think of a mnemonic (or “donkey bridge” as the Dutch and Germans call it), so you might like to know that it can be found on the Review tab, right next to the Editor button (the new name for Spelling & Grammar). I typically use it when I want to check my draft document or email for mistakes, as I always seem to have a blind spot for my own errors.

I used to read the text out loud myself, but now that I’m using Microsoft 365 I listen to Microsoft Hazel, George or Susan struggle with my sentences and stumble over my typos. (Fingers crossed I didn’t miss any.)

Here’s how:

1.    Position your cursor from where you want it to read aloud. (Click CTRL + HOME to jump to the top of your Word document or email message.)
2.    Click Read Aloud on the Review tab. (Or press ALT + CTRL + SPACEBAR.)

[[{"fid":"295968","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"read aloud fig 1","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"read aloud fig 1"},"link_text":false,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"read aloud fig 1","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"read aloud fig 1"}},"attributes":{"alt":"read aloud fig 1","title":"read aloud fig 1","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]

If you want to go back, pause or fast-forward, look out for the toolbar. You can also use its Settings button to change the Reading speed or Voice Selection.

[[{"fid":"295969","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"read aloud fig 2","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"read aloud fig 2"},"link_text":false,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"2":{"format":"default","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"read aloud fig 2","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"read aloud fig 2"}},"attributes":{"alt":"read aloud fig 2","title":"read aloud fig 2","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"2"}}]]

By the way, this tool is obviously also useful for people who have a  visual impairment. Or if you’re a non-native English speaker, like me, you could use it to hear how words are pronounced.

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This tip is written for Microsoft 365 desktop apps and Windows 10 users, but might also be useful in Office 2010, 2013 and 2016. I meticulously test every tip I write to make sure it is correct, easy to understand and time-saving. Let me know if something isn't clear or doesn't work.

1 November 2021

Karen Roem offers software training and support through her company Roem Ltd.  Contact her by email (Karen@roem.co.uk) or visit her website at www.roem.co.uk

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