When given a well-known abbreviation or acronym, Mac's built-in Text-to-Speech engine automatically speaks the correct word or pronunciation, instead of the individual letters.

For example:


  • (Speech pronunciation: "versus")


  • (Speech pronunciation: "December")

5 cm

  • (Speech pronunciation: "5 centimeters")


  • (Speech pronunciation: "Doctor")


  • (Speech pronunciation: "department")


  • (Speech pronunciation: "road")


  • (Speech pronunciation: "oh-peck")

However, there are instances where Speech does not pronounce a lesser-known abbreviation correctly, and, instead, speaks the individual letters of the word.

For example:




Is it possible to change the Speech behavior, so that when it is given "BTW," for example, it reads "by the way"?


Yes all you need to do is Go to System Preferences/Accessibility/VoiceOver. Then click the open voiceover utility button. Once that utility opens, select speech on the left and open the pronunciation tab. From there, you can add any abbreviations with substitutions.

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I also added the substitutions here:

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  • 4
    I just tried your method and it does not work. I think this is because "Speech" and "VoiceOver" actually use two separate engines. See for yourself: Type "qty" in an application and then highlight this text. Then click Edit → Speech → Start Speaking. You will observe that Speech does not say "quantity," despite the fact that this substitution has been added to the VoiceOver Utility Pronunciations. – rubik's sphere Apr 15 '17 at 18:46
  • I'm not sure why but I added "BTW" And that works, but "QTY" does not. Try adding "BTW" To yours and see if it works for you – wch1zpink Apr 15 '17 at 20:14
  • I added "BTW" to the list, in addition to several other custom pronunciations. I then restarted my computer. Speech still pronounces the custom words as individual letters. I'm using OS X 10.11.6. How are you triggering the Speech, exactly? – rubik's sphere Apr 17 '17 at 3:00
  • for "BTW" (In any application) all I do is select those three letters and I trigger my text to speech with ctrl + space.. Speech does say the full line.. "by the way". However, "qty" Has not worked for me yet. Operating system Sierra – wch1zpink Apr 17 '17 at 3:04
  • Very strange. I tried also adding the substitutions to the "Keyboard" menu (per your most recent edit), but Speech still speaks the letters individually. I guess that this functionality is unique to Sierra... – rubik's sphere Apr 17 '17 at 4:42

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