Microsoft Word – Get Your Voice Back

If you suddenly can’t find David or Mark or Zira computer voice to read your word documents to you, here’s the solution!

When I edit my books, I go through 4 edits:

  1. Let Microsoft Word’s Editor help me correct spelling and perhaps grammar. Editor is funkier to use than the previous spell check. But my settings to display reading level and ease are still in force, so that’s good.
  2. Reparagraph. When I write, I don’t always split paragraphs correctly. And often, I want to make my paragraphs shorter so that they’re easier to read. I also find lots of little errors when I do this.
  3. Let Word read the book aloud. More on that below.
  4. Check for words that I commonly misspell. I created a word macro to highlight those words. By this point, I often don’t need to do this edit. However, I usually still do as I often end up reading the story once more and perhaps correct other issues or add a few more gems.

I hadn’t published a book in a few months. When I was editing the latest book, Microsoft’s Read Aloud tool had changed. It no longer used David’s voice. It was now using a female voice which I found to be grating on my ears. I switched to the male voice, and ended up switching back to the female voice. David’s voice is not the greatest. But it was better, IMHO, than either of these. But it was no longer an option.

So, I googled. And people, including microsoft, kept telling me to go to settings and choose David for Narrator voice. Well, that was still set. And Mark and Zira voices were also still there. However, now Read Aloud can’t use those voices. 

I finally found the answer. Not the greatest, but it works.

Choose a menu (ribbon in Microsoft Word), where you want to add Speak. Read Aloud is on the Review menu ribbon, so you might want to add Speak there. I have custom menus for writing books, so I added speak there.

Now, I just click on speak for David to read the text to me and click on it again to make it stop. Actually, it’s not that simple. David will read the selected text or the current word. You can make it function like Read Aloud (Read from here forward until you stop it). Press Ctrl+Shift+End to select from here forward. However, David will keep reading even though the text doesn’t move on the screen. Not helpful!

So, I select one paragraph at a time, by triple-clicking in the paragraph. Then I have David read me just that paragraph. Not the best method. But it works, and usually, I want to make some changes, unless it’s a very short paragraph.

To change narrators (perhaps you don’t like David or perhaps your local language is not US English), click the Windows Start menu, then settings gear, then search for voice or narrator. Once you get to the Narrator settings, choose whichever voice you want. If there aren’t any there, google to figure out how to install them. 

Please note that sometimes the computer reader will autocorrect for you. The error will still be in the text, but you won’t hear it. And sometimes, they really mangle words, especially the ones I’ve made up. However, that can help when perhaps I should change the spelling to something which a human reader might guess at. If that’s important.

Alternate options:

  • Use the Windows Narrator – I found this to be clunkier. Maybe you’ll like it.
  • Read your story outloud to somebody else
  • Have somebody else read the story outloud to you – I tend to not find quite as many errors with this or the previous method as I do by having the computer read to me while I edit.
  • Hire an editor
  • Use an online read such as Natural Readers – I haven’t tried it, it’s just the first one that Google returned.
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