About once a month, on Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).
Today’s Tool: NaturalReader
Platform: Online, Windows, Mac
Cost: Free both online and downloadable with some limits; paid downloadable tiers: $99, $129, $199 (one-time payments); paid online tiers: $59.88, $95.88 (annual payments)
What it does: NaturalReader is text-to-speech software that you can use for free, or pay for if you need additional features.
One suggestion that I always give writers is to read their work aloud. Your ear will hear what your eye doesn’t see. But one of the issues with an author reading their own work is that sometimes we see on the page what we have in our heads — what we meant to put on the page but actually didn’t. NaturalReader is a good alternative, because your work is read to you by “someone” else. The chances of hearing mistakes or just noticing inconsistencies is higher.
So how does NaturalReader work?
If you just want a passage read to you, you can use the free online version, which allows you to paste text in to have read to you. I had a lot of fun playing with this one, because they have many voices to choose from, including American and British English, as well as a number of non-English voices, all in both male or female. I admit to having a lot of fun listening to my stories read to me by a British dude. 😉
The voices aren’t bad, either. Some of them sound a lot like Stephen Hawking’s speech, simply because there is natural inflection in words and sometimes the inflections used when the words were recorded don’t match the cadence of a sentence. But it’s not terrible and is less pronounced with some of the voices than others.
One issue I did notice is that contractions are a problem. Apostrophes don’t seem to be recognized. The voice would pronounce we’re as were and would spell out contracted words that don’t make real words, like wasn’t. This could be more of a technical issue, because I can’t imagine they didn’t record the word we’re when creating the vocabulary database. My bet is that the typographical database either recognizes curly or straight apostrophes and whatever I pasted in was the opposite. (I’m too lazy to check and see if that’s true.) Other than this little glitch, I didn’t find much in the way of issues while I was testing it out.
Obviously, if you’re writing something that has a lot of uncommon names, foreign words, or fantasy type names, the program isn’t going to be pronouncing them. But it’s not terribly distracting to have things spelled out rather than spoken.
Where to get NaturalReader: There are two different pages for this program: the Online version and the Desktop version. The Desktop version is available in both Windows and Mac. You can toggle between them via a button on that page.
Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!
Looking for more helpful writerly stuff? Check out all the other Tool Time Tuesdays!
All NaturalReader media on this page is courtesy of NaturalReader.