Turn Academic Articles into Audio with Microsoft Word’s Speak

Did your new faculty job come with a long (45 min+ each way) car commute? Do you struggle to gain traction on your research projects because you feel like you have to sacrifice your precious early morning to make it to campus? Do you enjoy podcasts and audio books, but wish you could make your in-car time more “productive”?I’m sure you already know some ways you can still make your commute as productive as possible–listening to podcasts, sending emails and texts with voice-activated apps such as Siri, etc.–but I bet you never thought to use one of the most powerful built-in (but hidden) features of Microsoft Word to get things done in your car. It’s called “Speak,” and it means that Word will read any highlighted text in an open document out loud.

Coupled with Adobe’s ability to export PDFs as Word documents (Edit > Export as), you can have practically any PDF or text file read to you during your commute.

How to Activate Microsoft Word’s “Speak”

To add the “Speak” tool to your toolbar, follow the steps in this 2-minute video. Then, check out some of the ways you can use it for writing and teaching below.
Using “Speak” for Research and Writing

  1. Have Word read you journal articles or even book chapters (as long as you have them as PDFs) using Adobe’s “Export as” feature mentioned above. Be sure to paste all the text for all the articles you want it to read into one document; it will not read multiple open documents in series.
  2. Use it to “reconnect” with old writing projects.
  3. Use it to read polished drafts and listen for awkward or repetitive areas.

Using “Speak” for Teaching

  1. Have Word read you assigned journal articles or books (as long as you have a PDF or .doc format) for class.
  2. Have Word read you low-stakes student assignments that you grade wholistically. You can use Voice Memos or another app to record audio feedback.

Have you used any of the tips on your commute? Let me know in the comments or by email.

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