Hello. I'm Your Cyber Reader. -->

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Hello. I'm Your Cyber Reader.


By Hillary Wentworth, Writing Consultant

I bet an instructor or tutor has told you at some point to read your writing aloud. It’s true that this is a good practice during revision. By reading aloud, you can hear the rhythm and flow of the language and determine if the narrative progresses logically. I am taking this advice one step further, though: Have someone else read your paper to you. By becoming the audience instead of the writer, you can assess your writing—its strengths and weaknesses—more objectively. The words might still be your own, but they are now in someone else’s voice. This process allows you to step back and remove your emotional ownership of the material. Therefore, you should be able to listen for wordy phrases, awkward syntax, and repetitive ideas—things you don’t normally spot when you are in the groove of writing at your desk.

Now, I know that sometimes you are at that desk at 3 a.m., and the paper deadline is imminent. There is no human around, or at least awake, to help you. That’s when your cyber reader comes to the rescue! Fortunately for us writers, many free text-to-speech programs exist online today. In fact, I’ve embedded audio of the first paragraph below, so you can hear it instead of read it on the screen. I’ve used iSpeech’s free version, which is great because you don’t have to download any software. However, the recordings can only be 1 minute in length. iSpeech is probably most effective when you’re struggling with just a few sentences then. Some other programs that allow longer recordings are Natural Reader and Read Please. Because the voices sound more natural with the paid versions, if you find that you like text-to-speech and use it frequently, you might want to invest in that upgrade.

Of course, text-to-speech has uses beyond revision. You could convert course readings or journal articles to speech, for instance; that way, if you are more of an auditory learner, processing and retaining the information will come easier. You could take notes as you listen, thus activating your critical thinking. What other ways could you use a text-to-speech program during the writing process?


  1. You are so right. I have been using Dragon Naturally Speaking for several years. It is a great tool for spotting grammatical errors that we just don't see after reading the same passage many times. When you have that kind of a mistake, it is to much easier to hear than spot on the page.

  2. Thanks for the comment, David! For those of you interested in Dragon Naturally Speaking, here is a link: http://nuance.com/for-individuals/by-solution/speech-recognition/index.htm. It looks like this product is speech-to-text rather than text-to-speech, but that can be a valuable tool as well.

    Writing Center Staff