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Speaking text on your Mac

In this post, John Espirian provides a quick tip to get your Mac to help you proofread text.

A while ago, I published my top 10 proofreading tips. Although I stick by those recommendations, I’ve recently started using a new way to look out for errors.

Macs can speak any text that can be selected, and we can take advantage of this when checking content. It’s like having your own actor to speak the text, letting you sit back and listen to how it sounds.

Speaking text selections

I find the best approach is to set up a keyboard shortcut so that I can select a section of text and press a couple of buttons to get my Mac to speak the content. Here’s a quick video to show you what to do:

And here are the steps in full:

  1. Go to Apple | System Preferences…

  1. Click Dictation & Speech

  1. Click Text to Speech
  2. Tick the box labelled Speak selected text when the key is pressed

The default key combination is Alt+Esc. If you wish to change this, use the Change Key… button. I recommend setting the voice to Serena, but you might want to experiment with the other voices.

Try it out

Once you’ve enabled the keyboard shortcut, you can get your Mac to speak any text that you’re able to select.

  1. Open any text document
  2. Select the text you want to have spoken
  3. Press Alt+Esc (or whichever combination you chose if you changed the default setting)

You’ll now hear the text spoken by your Mac. To stop the Mac speaking, press the same key combination again.

Bonus tip

Did you know that triple-clicking anywhere within a paragraph selects the whole paragraph? It’s much quicker than clicking and dragging.

Listen to the speech and try to spot problems with the text that you might have missed when reading normally.

I find this method particularly useful for rooting out repeat words and prepositions inadvertently left in the text when sentences have been rewritten.

Why not just speak the text aloud yourself?

You should certainly do that (see item 5 in my top 10 tips), but you’ll benefit even more if you hear the words spoken by another voice. Doing so gives you more chance to focus on the words, and prevents you from unconsciously skipping over parts that contain errors.

Remember that reviewing the same content over and over again can make you blind to the problems in the text. Listening to the text spoken in a different accent and with a different rhythm could help you pick out errors you would otherwise have missed.

That’s it. If you have any other proofreading tips to share, please post them in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Who wrote this?

I'm John Espirian, the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter. I've written about IT and the web since 1998, and I'm a former Microsoft MVP. If you need B2B web content that explains how your products, services and processes work, I'm your guy.

The Espirian blog provides writing tips and how-to guides on improving your online presence and marketing your business.

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