If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard that one great way to proof your own work is to read it aloud. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really up for that. I guess I could get used to it, but something about the entire idea of reading to an empty room (or an audience of cats in my case) just makes me want to go do dishes instead.

I’ve discovered an nifty alternative. It won’t work for everyone, because it is a function of Microsoft Office for Windows 2010. Before you roll your eyes at me, I know Office is an expense not all of us want to have, especially with free alternatives out there, and a lot of people use Macs. And If any of you knows of a similar function elsewhere (like I know it exists on Androids, I’ve just never looked for it), please share in the comments.

(Also keep in mind that at least a few publishers do their edits in Word using track changes and comments, so you may have to give in at some point).

All that out of the way, there’s a text to speech option in Office 2010. It’s really easy to use. You highlight the text you want read aloud (a paragraph, a chapter, whatever you’d like), you click the button, and a monotone mechanical voice reads it to you.

The thing is, it doesn’t come enabled by default. So here’s how you turn it on:

Inside Microsoft Word 2010, click on File, and then Options:

    A new window will open.
  • Click on Quick Access Toolbar.
  • In the drop-down called Choose commands from: select Speak (The list in alpabetical order, so you’ll have to scroll, or start typing, and it should find it automatically)
  • Click Add > >
  • Click OK

Now you’ll be back in your Word document. Highlight the portion of text you’d like read aloud, and click the Speak selected text button that’s now at the very top of Word next to the other important quick links like Save and Undo.

Again – if you know how to do something similar in any other application, let us know!