Write Hard; Speak Easy


(And It’s Free in WORD!)

By Julia Ash

If the art of writing is rewriting, then editing is essential, regardless of wordcount. Every literary endeavor—from letter to full manuscript—should be inspected, with the intention of making improvements.

In a letter, the author may peruse for tone, as well as effectiveness in conveying the letter’s purpose. In a fiction project, the author has a daunting writing-checklist to evaluate, including (but not limited to) style, voice, word choice, clarity, grammar, tone, pacing, rhythm, emotion, imagery, conflict, and dialogue.

The key to effective editing is using a variety of tools, those which engage different senses. Imagine opening a toolbox when you need a #2 Phillips head screwdriver only to find a hammer! No doubt your scope of work will be limited, leaving plenty of unfinished projects.

When I edit, I read my manuscript from my computer, from a printed hardcopy, and aloud (to a listener). I also use beta readers and have even employed a professional editor for critiques. Each approach targets different parts of my brain, thus making each review fresh. And fresh eyes/approaches catch more issues!

Recently, I read an article by Patricia Watters that suggested adding a new editing tool. In her article Speak: A New Way to Edit (published in the March 2017 issue of the Romance Writers Report), Watters shared that she uses the Speak function in Word. I was all ears!

I followed her instructions on activating this function and had Word’s digital voice read my manuscript to me. I listened without visually reading along. Wow! Such a powerful tool. I found this method of editing helped me gauge if I was hitting the sweet-spot for description—providing enough to ground the scene, but not so much that the reader couldn’t fill in the details with her imagination. Hearing my story also helped with dialogue. Was it realistic? Was I using too many tags? I also learned where I was sucked into my story—forgetting everything else around me—and when I was not!

Tools can be expensive, but this one is free if you use Word! Below are my instructions for activating the Speak function in your Word software. I’ve provided a couple of print-screens. Keep in mind that each “click” may change slightly based on your version of Word. I am using Word 10.

  1. Open your Word document.
  1. In the tippy-top of your Word screen, on the left side of your screen, click on the dropdown for the Customize Quick Access Toolbar. (See Exhibit A)


  1. When the dropdown menu displays, click on “More Commands,” usually near the bottom of the menu.
  2. Follow Exhibit B below and the following steps: #1. Change the option in the “Choose commands from” box—from “Popular Commands” to “All Commands”; #2. Scroll down the extensive list of commands and highlight “Speak”; #3. Click Add; #4. Click “OK.”


  1. Look back at the tippy-top of your Quick Access options and you will now see a speech bubble.
  1. Highlight the text you would like read, then click the speech bubble on your Quick Access toolbar! (Make sure your speakers are on and unmuted!)
  1. Listen to your work!

I hope this editing tool is helpful!

Let me know what you think above (by clicking the “Leave a comment” link), or on my website’s Contact Page, Facebook (Julia Ash), or Twitter (@Author_JuliaAsh).

Happy Writing 😊

2 thoughts on “Write Hard; Speak Easy

  1. What a great discovery!
    I will be brainstorming more uses for this tool.
    Thank you for sharing!


    1. You are welcome, Cheryl! I never knew this command existed or how valuable it is! I’ve even used it for emails — I copy and paste my email into Word before sending. Listen to it, make adjustments, and copy and paste it back into the email. What a great way to check my work! And hey, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate you 🙂


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