Getting Started – Getting Better


A Story Can Read Itself

There are some terrific but hidden authoring tools built into Windows 11 and Microsoft Word. The first is a tool which lets you dictate your story while Windows types. The second (to the best of my knowledge, only in MS Word) will then read back what you dictated.

Game changer!

Reading and Writing Revolution

A few years ago when the arthritis in my hands was exceptionally bad, I paid something like $100US for a dictation-to-text program called Dragon. It was buggy as Hell, cost another $100 to renew and upgrade it annually, and I finally uninstalled it in disgust. I certainly didn’t get my money’s worth from it.

Fast forward to 2023, and Windows does the same thing — only better, and free. Is it perfect? No. It is, however, improved enough to be functional.

Speech to Text

Version 1: Notepad.
Open Notepad and press Windows Key + H. It will open the microphone tool. Activate it and dictate like a pro while Windows does the typing. This tool will work in other applications, as well, including any website with a fillable text box.

Click the Settings button to enable automatic punctuation, too – a huge step up from the previous versions.

Version 2: Microsoft Word

Go to Home > Dictate and start recording. All the dirty details are in this article.

Text to Speech

Note: This tool only works in Microsoft Word.

A terrific proofreading tool is to make Windows read your work back to you. It’s not perfect for proofreading, because it can’t distinguish between homonyms; but it’s great at catching double words, obvious typos, and awkward phrasing.

Place your cursor where you want the tool to begin, then go to Review > Read Aloud. Under the Settings icon, adjust readback speed and what voice type is preferred. For more about the tool, check out this article.

Why Game Changers?

If you’re disabled, you don’t have to ask why dictation is a game changer. Even if you’re not disabled, however, it’s a great way to make story notes if you’re too busy to actually sit down and write.

But as an author, having your work read aloud is a fabulous editing tool. There’s no better way to catch the evil typo, double-words, and awkward phrasing. While it doesn’t catch every error, it gives you a big head start on cleaning up a manuscript.

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