During college, you’re likely to have many papers to write. Sometimes, the hardest part of writing a paper isn’t getting your ideas out, but getting it ready to hand in to your professor. It’s important to know how to use your screen-reader and word processor together to get the most out of proofreading the paper.

By Megan Dausch on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 1:38:31 PM

Before we get into some tips that may help you, it’s important to remember that technology is always changing. Therefore, it’s very possible that this information may no longer be accurate. If you’re having trouble reproducing anything discussed, or if there is something that is not covered, try Googling the software and version number and whatever task you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re a screen-reader user, it may help to append keyboard shortcut or screen-reader to your search. For example, if you don’t know how to double space, try Googling “double space keyboard shortcut Word 2016.” You may explore all of the information discussed here more in-depth by consulting your screen-readers documentation and the manufacturer’s resources. There are many different ways to complete a given task with a computer. This is not a full list, nor a substitute for reviewing your word processor’s and screen-reader’s documentation, but just some tips to keep in mind that may be of assistance.

Screen-reader keys

Throughout this guide, you will see the terms “Jaws key, NVDA key,” and “Vo keys.” The Jaws key is commonly the insert key on your keyboard. If you’re using laptop layout, it is often the caps lock key. However, it can be customized. The Nvda key is also most often either insert or caps lock. You may modify it as well. To invoke the Voiceover keys, press control-option together. You may also use the caps lock key, if you have set this in Voiceover settings. For further information about modifier keys, consult your screen-reader’s documentation.

Some tips for using JAWS to proofread and get your work ready to hand in

Checking your font

Often, your professor will require you to write a paper using a certain font. To check your current font at the cursor using JAWS, press JAWS key-f.

Spell-checking your document with JAWS

With JAWS, you can bring up a list of spelling errors in several ways. Use alt-shift-l to bring up a list of all misspellings. Then, use your arrow keys to explore the list of errors. When you find one you want to correct, press enter. Then, press the applications key or shift-f10 to examine a list of suggestions. If you find the suggestion you want, press enter.

Alternatively, use JAWS quick keys. Press JAWS key and the letter z followed by m to jump from misspelling to misspelling. To get to your suggestions, use the context menu, applications key or shift f10, arrow to the suggestion you desire and press enter.

Checking your punctuation

It’s important to make sure you haven’t forgotten any commas or neglected to close quotations. To check your punctuation, you can set JAWS to read all punctuation. While this would be distracting for daily use, it can be helpful when proofreading a paper. You can change the punctuation setting in quick settings if desired. Pres JAWS key-v to open quick settings, type in punctuation, and explore your options.

Finding inconsistent punctuation or typos

You may also wish to explore the text analyzer. The JAWS help documentation lists a great deal of information about the text analyzer, which can help you find inconsistencies within your document. For example, if you have forgotten to close a quotation, JAWS will alert you. Even if text analyzer is switched off, you can press alt-windows-I to find potential issues with your document. The alt-Windows-I command will even alert you if you have accidentally added too many spaces between words—a feature which comes in handy when only relying on synthetic speech to proofread.

Another way to learn about formatting in your document—Use Sound Schemes

Still another way you can examine your text for errors is by using sound schemes. Normally, JAWS uses the same Voice to read your document, regardless of formatting. However, by using a sound scheme, JAWS will change its Voice if text is bolded or contains other font attributes. You can create your own sound scheme, or use one of the many built-in schemes. To pull up a list of schemes, press JAWS key-alt-s. You can select a scheme and use it within the current program. JAWS has several schemes for proofreading, including one that will provide information about font, color and attributes. You can explore more about speech and sound schemes by referring to JAWS documentation or examining it from JAWS Settings Center.

Checking your paragraphs

It’s important to ensure that your paragraphs clearly relate to each other and point back to your thesis when writing a paper. Sometimes, it helps to read your paper paragraph by paragraph. You can use control-up and control-down arrow to move through your writing by paragraphs. To examine your paper at the sentence level, use alt-up arrow and alt-down arrow to navigate by sentences. You may use control-right arrow and control-left arrow to navigate word by word. To spell the current word, press JAWS key plus number 5 twice quickly, or if you’re using a keyboard without a numeric keypad, press JAWS key and the letter k twice quickly. Of course, you may always use your arrow keys to navigate through characters and words.

You can also set JAWS to indicate paragraphs as you read, navigate or type or read navigate and type. Press JAWS key-v to open quick settings, type in paragraphs, and down arrow to find the option called new lines and paragraphs indication. Press space bar to toggle through the available options. If you make changes in quick settings, these settings will be used next time you open Word. In addition to hearing announcements about paragraphs, you can choose to hear announcements of misspelled words. For many of these options to work, you will need to enable them to show up visually in Word as well. Before enabling the misspelled word setting in quick settings for example, “check spelling as you type” will need to be enabled within the proofing pane of Microsoft Word options. If something is not working as expected, see if there is a setting within Microsoft Word that you can change as well.

Proofreading with NVDA

Formatting settings

If you’re using NVDA, press NVDA+control+d to access the formatting settings dialog. This is your key to proofreading with NVDA. Here, you can change what type of information you want to access, such as when font changes, when you have a spelling error or when you have bold text. If you’d like, you can create your own commands to quickly toggle whether you want to hear this sort of information. For example, if you find it irritating to hear your spelling errors all of the time, you can create a command to have them only read after you invoke it. This is done through the input gestures dialog under NVDA preferences.

Another setting which may be helpful to proofread your documents as announcing formatting changes after the cursor. This can be found in the Formatting Settings dialog.


When you come across a word spelled incorrectly, make sure your cursor is on the word. Then press your applications key or shift-f10 to pull up your suggestions lists. Alternatively, you may wish to use the Microsoft Word spell-check dialog by pressing f7.

Document Navigation

To move by paragraphs, you may press control-up and control- down arrow. To examine your paper at the sentence level, use alt-up arrow and alt-down arrow. You may use control-right arrow and control-left arrow to navigate word by word, and right and left arrow to navigate by characters. Of course, you may always use your arrow keys to navigate through characters and words.

Checking Font and Punctuation

To hear information about the current font at the cursor, press NVDA-F.

When proofreading, you may wish to have NVDA read all punctuation. You may change this setting under NVDA preferences under the Voice section.

Windows commands

Here are a few Microsoft Word keyboard shortcuts that may assist you when writing a paper. These commands have nothing to do with your screen-reader of choice—they will work regardless of whether you have a screen-reader running.

To bring up the font dialog press control-shift-p. Generally, this will open the font dialog. If not, you can press alt-o followed by f, or access it through the ribbon.

To double space your paper, select all with control-a and then press control-2.

If you’re working on a research paper, it may help to take a look at the built-in Microsoft Word citation feature. This can be found under the references section of the ribbon. While it’s important to learn how to properly format a Works Cited page yourself, Microsoft Word can help you track your sources and complete a Works Cited page.

Control-shift-s will take you to apply style, if you’d like to add headings to your paper, for example.

f7 will take you to the standard Microsoft Word spell-check dialog where you may work through spelling and grammar errors.

Remember that your document navigation commands, such as control-home to jump to the top of the document, control-end to move to the bottom,, and navigation with arrow keys, as well as selecting and cutting text can be an important part of proofing and cleaning up your document.

Using Voiceover with Pages on a Mac

To hear Voiceover speak information about the current font, press Vo-T.

If you want to hear attribute changes when proofreading your paper, such as if text suddenly becomes underlined, you can change your Voiceover verbosity setting to accomplish this. Change the “Speak text attribute setting” to “speak.” As you read, Voiceover will alert you to any font changes.

Checking your paragraphs and sentences

To move paragraph by paragraph, press option up arrow or option down arrow. To read the current paragraph, press Vo-p. Sometimes, moving through a paper in this manner can help you find structural issues. To examine your paper sentence by sentence, press VO-Command-Page Down or VO-Command-Page Up. To read the current sentence, press Vo-s. To read the current word, press Vo-w. To spell the current word, press Vo-w twice quickly.

The Formatter

When in Pages, it’s important to be aware of the Formatter. This will allow you to make formatting changes to your document such as font style, add headings, and control spacing. Move to the formatter with Vo-j. When you are done adjusting your settings, choose the update button, and then press Vo-j to jump back to the text area.


There are several ways to spell check within Pages. The one I find myself using most often is pressing command-semi colon to jump from misspelling to misspelling. When you use the command-semicolon command, to jump to a spelling error, press Vo-shift-m to pull up your context menu for a list of suggestions.

If you have the check spelling as you type setting enabled, Voiceover will alert you to errors while you type. A pop-up will come up after a misspelling is detected and you can choose the word you want with your arrow keys and press enter.

Students will find strategies that work best for them to proofread a document. Having access to a braille display can help. Reading your paper with various synthetic Voices and at different rates of speech can give you a new perspective on your writing. No computer can replace getting a second opinion from a friend or the writing center before handing in that final draft.