“What’s the difference between hearing and listening?”
That was one of the most common questions students asked during my tenure as an English teacher.
Today, when I edit and proofread blog posts, I’m reminded of the answer I used to give them — listening is paying attention to what you're hearing.
When I read my writing aloud, I often read over spelling mistakes, read over duplicate words, read over wrong words and read over syntax errors. I’m hearing myself, but not listening carefully enough. So, instead of reading my writing aloud, I have my devices read to me.
In this post, I’m going to share the hack that I use all the time to edit and proofread blog posts — Text to Speech and Speak Selection.
Text to Speech (macOS)
Text to Speech or TTS on macOS and Speak Selection on iOS enables your devices to read highlighted text — in apps and websites. Unlike VoiceOver, which speaks everything on the screen, Text to Speech and Speak Selection only reads what has been selected. You wouldn’t want to create an audiobook with the result, but for editing and proofreading blog posts it’s incredibly useful. I use it whenever I write!
Text to Speech should be enabled by default on macOS. To get started, launch the app you use for writing blog posts > Highlight some text > Right click > Hover over Speech > Click Start Speaking (see screenshot above).
To enable to the Text to Speech shortcut (Option+Esc), do the following:
1. Click the Apple menu > System Preferences
2. Click Accessibility
3. Click Speech
4. Check Speak selected text when the key is pressed.
Now, whenever you highlight text and click “Option+Esc” macOS will read aloud the highlighted text. I love this shortcut because it makes it so much faster to hear what you’ve written. To stop speaking, enter the shortcut again.
The reading voice and speaking rate can be switched in System Preferences > Accessibility > Speech. Alex is the default reading voice on macOS in the US, but there are other male and female voices that can be downloaded for different countries and regions. These voices can be large files, though. For example, Karen, the Australian English voice is 2 gigabytes.
Speak Selection (iOS)
I use Speak Selection on iOS more than Text to Speech on macOS because I do most of my initial typing or dictating on iPhone. Speak Selection isn’t enabled by default on iOS, but it’s easy to enable (see screenshots above).
- Tap Settings
- Tap General
- Tap Accessibility
- Tap Speech
- Enable Speak Selection. Also, enable the shortcut, Speak Screen. When this shortcut is enabled, instead of highlighting text, just swipe down with 2 fingers from the top of the screen to listen.
- Launch the app you use for writing > Highlight some text. In the Edit Menu, tap Speak.
Samantha is the default reading voice on iOS, but I changed mine to “Siri Female” which sounds fantastic! With iOS13’s Neural text to speech, Siri now sounds even more natural when speaking longer sentences since the voice is 100% generated by software.
You just learned the hack that I use all the time to edit and proofread blog posts with Text to Speech (macOS) and Speak Selection (iOS). Try having your devices read your writing to you! If you're in an environment where you can’t listen, use a pair of earphones.