How to Make Word Read to You

Use the Speak and Read Aloud commands

What to Know

  • Select the Read Aloud icon in the ribbon under the Review menu to hear the entire document narrated.
  • Add the Speak command to the Quick Look Toolbar and select the Speak icon to narrate the text you've highlighted in your document.
  • Read Aloud sounds better but is only available in versions of Office after 2019. The Speak feature is available in Office 2003 and later.

There are several options available to have Word read the text aloud to you so you'll know what's on the page even if you can't fully see the text or you want to hear how it flows. Here's how to make Word read to you.

How to Make Word Read to You

From within Microsoft Word, there are two main features to make Word read to you. The first is Read Aloud, which will read the entire page. The second is Speak, which will read aloud only the text you've selected.

How to Use Read Aloud in Word

You can only use the Read Aloud feature in Word if you have Office 2019, Office 2021, or Microsoft 365. Otherwise, you'll need to upgrade Office to enjoy this feature.

  1. Select the Review menu and select Read Aloud from the ribbon.

    Review and Read Aloud in Microsoft Office ribbon

    You'll want to first open the document you'd like Microsoft Word to read aloud to you. Without a document open, the Read Aloud controls won't do anything.

  2. This option will open the Read Aloud controls at the upper right corner of your open document. There are five buttons to control the Read Aloud feature. To hear the text read aloud to you, press the Play icon in these controls (the right arrow icon).

    Play in Read Aloud for Microsoft Word
  3. You'll hear a voice reading the text aloud. You'll also notice that the play icon has now changed to a Pause icon (two vertical lines). Press the Pause button if you want to pause the audio voice wherever it's currently reading. When you're ready to start listening again, press the Play button.

    Pause control in Read Aloud for Microsoft Word
  4. You will also notice two other buttons to the right and left of the Play/Pause button. These are two left arrows (Previous) and two right arrows (Next). These buttons will let you navigate forward or backward one paragraph, which is helpful if you aren't interested in hearing the current paragraph anymore and want the narration to skip back or ahead.

    Skip in Read Aloud for Microsoft Word
  5. When you finish listening to the document being read aloud, you can stop the Read Aloud feature by selecting the Stop icon (an X icon).

    Stop control in Read Aloud for Microsoft Word

Remember, you don't need to use your mouse to control Microsoft Word Read Aloud. You can use the following keyboard shortcuts instead.

  • CTRL + Alt + Space: Launch the Read Aloud feature
  • CTRL + Space: Play or pause voice narration
  • CTRL + Left Arrow: Move voice narration to the previous paragraph
  • CTRL + Right Arrow: Skip narration to the next paragraph
  • Alt + Left Arrow: Slow down voice narration speed
  • Alt + Right Arrow: Speed up voice narration speed

Enable and Use Speak in Word

Microsoft incorporated the Speak feature into Microsoft Office 2003. That means even if you don't have a newer version of Microsoft Word with Read Aloud available, you can still use the Speak feature. The only difference is you'll need to highlight the text you want to hear narrated first.

  1. Before you can use the Speak feature, you'll need to enable it in the Quick Access Toolbar. To do this, select File, Options, and Quick Access Toolbar from the left menu. Select All Commands from the Choose commands from drop-down menu.

    Quick Access Toolbar tab and All Commands highlighted in Microsoft Word Settings
  2. Scroll down to and select Speak, and select the Add button in the middle to add the Speak feature to the Quick Access Toolbar. Select OK to finish.

    Make sure the Show Quick Access Toolbar checkbox is selected, or you won't be able to see the toolbar even if Speak is enabled.

  3. To use the Speak feature, highlight the text you want to hear narrated. You can select the entire document if you wish. Once you've highlighted the text, select the Speak icon from the Quick Access Toolbar.

    Speak icon in Microsoft Word toolbar
  4. You will hear the text narrated in a digitized voice. At any time, if you want to stop the narration, you can select the Speak icon again, and the narration will stop.

    Stop Speaking icon in Microsoft Word toolbar
  • How do I make a Word document read-only?

    To make a document read-only, go to Review > Restrict Editing. Under Editing restrictions, check Allow only this type of editing in the document and choose No changes (Read only). You'll have the option to set a password if you don't want anyone else to alter the file.

  • How do I record read aloud in Word?

    Word doesn't have a built-in recorder, so you must run a separate audio recording program while Word reads your text. You can use built-in tools to record sound on Windows or record audio on Mac.

  • How do I use voice dictation in Word?

    To dictate or transcribe in Word, select the down-arrow next to Dictate > Transcribe > Start recording > Save and transcribe now. To transcribe existing audio, select Upload audio and choose the file.

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