Many of us already make use of speech-to-text technology – issuing voice commands to virtual assistant tools like Siri and Alexa to help us navigate the internet – maybe even to control music speakers and other connected devices around the home or office.
But how about technology that converts text-to-speech?
Text-to-speech technology was initially developed to help people with sight loss, but it has wide-reaching applications that can be useful to anyone.
As a copywriter who has a severe visual impairment myself, I find text-to-speech doubly useful.
The first benefit is obvious: I can’t see what I’m writing when I type text into my PC, so having software that echoes every keystroke I make, and reads my text back to me when I want to review it, enables me to work as if I have 20/20 vision.
The second advantage text-to-speech offers is more of a by-product of working this way – but it’s something that I think can be beneficial to anyone who’s writing an important document.
While spelling and grammar checking tools will help highlight obvious errors, there’s nothing like hearing your words read back to you to help you pick up on the more nuanced aspects of your writing. Reading it to yourself is not quite the same as hearing it read by another person – or indeed by a synthesised human voice.
The process makes it easier to review your writing and check you’re completely happy with it. Hearing it read back, you may find you want to rearrange the running order, alter the general tone, change some key words here and there, put more emphasis on certain points or improve the way a sentence scans.
For these reasons, I think text-to-speech technology can be a very useful tool for anyone who needs to draft documents.
I use screen reading software called ZoomText, created especially for people with a visual impairment, but there are plenty of other text-to-speech options out there – many of them free to use, and some of them probably already built into your PC.
Windows Narrator: Narrator is Windows’ screen and text-to-speech reader. It speaks aloud every action you take in Windows and can read out text in any document or file. To access Narrator in Windows 10, Click on the Start button / Settings / Ease of Access / Narrator.
Microsoft Word: If you’re working on a document in Microsoft Word, it’s simple to have your computer read your work back to you. Just click on the Review tab in the toolbar, and you’ll see the Read Aloud Speech button. All you need to do is to place your cursor at the start of the point you want reading to begin and use the Read Aloud Speech button to turn the reading function on and off. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Cntl+Space.
VoiceOver for Apple: Apple users can take advantage of VoiceOver – a sophisticated screen reader built into all Apple computers and mobile devices. To enable VoiceOver on an Apple Mac computer, click the Apple Menu button / System Preferences / Accessibility / VoiceOver – then click the checkbox next to Enable VoiceOver.
A quick visit to Google’s Play Store or the Apple App Store will show you that there are dozens of free and paid for text-to-speech apps you can download for your Android or IOS device.
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