Friday, March 20, 2020

Text-to-Speech for Editing

I like to read my manuscript out loud to check for repeated words and clunky dialogue - things I don't always notice when simply reading on the screen. And it always makes me lose my voice! So I've been looking around for a good text-to-speech converter to do the job for me.

These days the voices available for this sort of software are pretty good. They sound human, although they don't always do correct phrasing, but it's good enough to get a feel for the rhythm of your prose and to pick up typos and repeated words.

Windows 10 comes with Narrator already installed. This is specifically for the visually impaired and I found it too complicated to use for the simple task of reading a Word document. The other issue with Narrator is that it doesn't work well with Chrome, or at all with Google Docs, which is the software I use.

I trialed a couple of other options and have settled on Natural Reader, which can be installed as a Chrome extension. Other options (some of which I tried, but weren't right for me):

  • ReadAloud (can't find website, so Google for the app or Chrome extension)
  • Balabolka
  • WordTalk (specifically for Microsoft Word)0
  • Zabaware

In Natural Reader, you simply click the button on Chrome's toolbar, which opens up the control panel, then highlight the text to be read, and press Play. Natural Reader highlights each sentence as it reads.

The default voices are pretty nice, or you can choose Premium voices which work with the free plan, but you're limited what else you can do with them.

I wanted to record an MP3 of a small segment to show you an example of the voice quality, but couldn't do that without paying for a plan, so I used Windows voice recorder instead. Click here for a 30-second example (a conversation between Jesse and Wynter).

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