How to avoid Data Entry Errors with Speak Cells

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Eliminate data entry errors with Speak Cells

The problem, the solution and the problem!

This article is useful for anyone who understands these terms “makers and checkers”. This is usually applicable in Banking, Insurance and Finance industry.

Even if you are not from this industry, but if you have people who perform a lot of data entry in Excel, this article is useful to you.

Makers are those who enter data by looking at some paper based document. These people usually keep looking at the paper, keep typing very fast on the keyboard and never look at the screen to cross check what was typed. Therefore errors happen. In short, Makers Make Errors and Checkers Check and Correct them.

So that is the problem and the solution. But there is a bigger, unsolved problem.

From Checker’s point of view, the process of checking is monotonous and lengthy. I look at a number on the paper, then I match it with a number on-screen – repeatedly – hundreds of time… Mind you, this process itself is error prone. Can this be simplified?

Going one step further, can we detect and correct errors WHILE the data entry is being done? That will make things really efficient – time-saving + accuracy.

Needless to say, Excel has provided this solution decades back! Sadly, very few people ever noticed it!

The solution – Speak Cells in Excel

The solution is to make Excel speak! Yes. Excel can speak. Till 2003 version, the Tools menu had Speech Tools menu. But nobody clicked on it. So Microsoft REMOVED that menu from 2007 onwards (so sad… defeat of technology).

Now you have to put the menu back into your ribbon (Quick Access Toolbar).

  1. Right click on the Ribbon and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar
  2. From the list on the left side, open the dropdown Choose Commands From – select All Commands
  3. Now a long list of commands shown. Click inside this list. Type character S. Now the first command starting with S will be shown. Now press PgDn multiple times till you reach a command called Speak Cells.
  4. Click Add button 5 times – we need the following commandsExcel speak cells
  5. Click Ok to close the customization dialog. Now you should have all these commands in your QAT.Add speak cells to Quick Access Toolbar

Checkers: Checking quickly and accurately

Checker has to check the data in Excel against a paper based document.

Select the data

Choose whether you want to read by row or by column and click Speak Cells.

Excel will now speak the value in each cell. It understands numbers, dates and text. It is very smart. It pronounces numbers differently if you separate them with commas.

Now you never have to look at the screen. Just look at the paper and stop only if there is a discrepancy. To stop speaking, press SNAGHTML35a38d5

If the number is long, you will finish reading it faster but the speech will be slow. This makes it practically unusable. To solve this problem, you should increase the speed of speech (see below).

Makers: Detect and Correct mistakes while entering data

As a maker, or a data entry person, your hands are busy on the keyboard, eyes are busy looking at the input data on paper. What are your ears doing? Nothing… so make them work for you.

Click on Speak Cells on Enter button before you start data entry.

Now when you type the value and press Enter, Excel will read out what you just typed aloud. You can hear that and now you can cross check in your mind if that is what you intended to type. Simple. If you made a mistake, correct it immediately and move on.

Again, you will need to adjust the speed of speech to match your reading speed.

Changing the speed of speech (and the gender!)

Go to Control Panel, All Items, Text to Speech Settings (you can also search for Text to Speech directly)

Change the speed to match your reading speed. Click the Preview button to check it out. Change the default text with a long number to get a real feel.

Choose male or female voice based upon your preference… you are going to hear this voice thousands of times now… so might as well choose a pleasing voice Winking smile

Depending upon the languages installed on your Office version, multiple types of voice and languages will be available. This feature is available in many languages.


Implementation Guidelines

  1. In most cases, IT disables speakers on PCs. You will have to approach your IT team and show the business benefit of using this feature. Then they will enable speakers.
  2. Obviously, you must use headphones to avoid disturbing others around you. Any low-cost headphones are fine. Single ear headphone also is good enough. Don’t buy bulky ones. In-ear headphones are best. If the company does not give headphones, you buy it  yourself!

5 Responses

  1. Amazing option! Must for many organizations which still relies on physical documents and converts them into digital ones. I loved this feature.

  2. I tried. It works amazingly fine. I am going to use this feature extensively to read all the RFP documents. 🙂

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