Would you like the computer to read you a bedtime story? Maybe once, for amusement. But a lot of writers find it super helpful to have Microsoft Word read their recently-composed text back to them.

It can do that? Yes, it can. How?

Here’s how.

  1. Find this subtle little down-arrow button at the top (for purposes of illustration, I am using the 2016 version of Word on Windows 10).


2. Click it, and select “More Commands.”


3. Due to clueless software design (yes, you DO deserve that insult, Word) this extremely popular option is not listed under “Popular Commands.” Click just to the right of “Popular Commands” to get a pull-down menu, and select “All Commands.”


4. When it says “All Commands” you can scroll down to find “Speak.”


5. Select “Speak,” click the “Add” button.


6. The work “Speak” should migrate over to the right side, which means that an icon will show up at the top-left of your Word window. The top-left of your Word window is apparently called the “Quick Access Toolbar” just like the 60,000 other Microsoft things called “quick” or “access” or “toolbar.”

7. Click “OK.”


That’s it! Now, how to use it:

  1. Select some text. (If you don’t, Word will recite the whole document, starting from the beginning.)
  2. Click the bubble-shaped icon. (Steps 1-8 above gave you that icon.) If your speakers are on, you should hear a computerized voice reading your text.


If you want to interrupt the playback, the “Esc” key works.

Now, for extra fun, Windows 10 these days has several options for synthetic voices. Here is how to tweak that.

  1. Down in your Cortana search bar, enter “Settings” or just hunt around your start menu for “Settings.”
  2. Click “Settings.”


3. The Settings program has a search bar, too. Enter “speech.”

4. Click “Speech settings.”


5. Several menus and options appear. Find the section titled “Voices.” A pull-down menu there has options for other voices.


6. David is a male bass, Zira is a female alto, and Mark is a male tenor. You also have a slider option to speed up or slow down voice playback. “Preview voice” to hear a sample at whatever speed and voice option you have currently selected.


When you are happy, you are done. There is no “OK” button in Settings. Your voice playback will use the last-selected option you chose.

P. S.,
Dear Microsoft.
Zira is a name I made up for a DnD character a decade or two ago. She was a total boss wizard character with shiny tattoos and straight black hair. I’d just like to state that I’m miffed that you stole my completely original name for your speech emulator. While I am aware that I didn’t march down to the copyright office and copyright “Zira” twenty years ago, I still feel like I own that name.
But I can be bought. Call me.

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