Spelling on a screen reader? (Likely through the QTADS interpreter)

I’m working on a TADS 3 game, and I have some menus that have screen-reader-friendly alternatives.

I want the screen reader to read out an abbreviation as individual letters, and not attempt to pronounce it as a word. Is there a way to reliably do this?

For example, if I have the following output:

CLIMB can be shortened to CL (spelled “C L”), and JUMP can be shortened to JM (spelled “J M”)!

Is it clear how to spell the abbreviation for “climb” and “jump”? Do screen readers correctly tell you how to spell the shorthand abbreviations, or do they pronounce them as “claw” and “jim”, respectively?

Is there a set of HTML tags I could use that screen readers look out for? Are there any major deviations in how different screen readers work? (I’m on a Linux, which can be finicky about screen readers at times, so I’m not sure how much info I would get if I loaded one up for myself.)

Thank you for all for helping me keep my games as accessible as possible!

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Not a blind person, but I believe they’re usually decent about reading acronyms: here’s NVDA on Windows 10, not in QTADS but just from this post: http://joshgrams.com/2023/01/31/climb-and-jump.mp3

(also NVDA is free, and I think a bunch of platforms have built-in text-to-speech now? So it might be worth looking into when you’re not in crunch mode: it’s not a substitute for getting playtesting, but it’s handy to be able to take at least a first pass/guess yourself)


Excellent news!!! I’ll format any help texts accordingly, to make sure they read smoothly for screen readers, then!

Hopefully other screen readers have similar functionality. I might see what a Linux one will do, because if both Linux and Windows screen readers pronounce it the same, then I think it’s safe to assume that this pronunciation is generally standard.

Thank you!!

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Screen reader user here…
Usually, it’s not the screen reader that determines how things are read, they just send stuff to a speech synthesiser which does all the processing.
Anyway, in the examples you gave, both are read out as you want. CL is read as “c l” and JM as “j m”.
Things get a bit interesting when reading abbreviations with vowels in as the speech synthesiser doesn’t usually know if it’s supposed to be one or just a word in all caps, so usually treats it like a word. But some might have exceptions built in, like the one I’m using now knows that IBM should be read as the letters I B M. But screen readers have commands to find and spell words and such like when needed.
Good suggestion about testing it with NVDA, which is the screen reader I’m using now. But like Josh Grams said, playtesting from users is important.
Hope this helps.


It helps a great deal, thank you!! :grin:

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In most cases, abbreviations like CL and JM are read out by screen readers. The only time it can get iffy is when vowels are involved, in which case it’s best to capitalize all the letters. It also isn’t too hard to infer what the abbreviation is, based on what the verb is, assuming you’re using standard verbs and not obscure words or magic spells or something odd.


Is there a way to force spelling? Short of placing a period after each letter?

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So that was the intent behind spacing out the letters (which worked), but it seems like the (intact) abbreviations I specifically need will be pronounced correctly for screen readers.

As @Kara_Louise and @blindHunter pointed out: As long as I avoid vowels, I should be good.

I think there’s a webpage HTML tag that allows for fine-tuning for screen readers, by sending alternative text strings to the speech synthesizer, but I’m 90% sure that doesn’t work in TADS 3, and apparently those tags only work for one kind of screen reader in particular, as other readers don’t pick up on them. This is because the tags aren’t a web standard, and are just provided by one specific company, which has gotten popular. (I forget which one it was)

As @JoshGrams and Kara pointed out: I’ll mostly be better-off implementing stuff and getting playtest data, in order to find all the little deviations and hiccups in how the text is processed.

The biggest reason for this is because after looking up screen reader accessibility methods, the tags from the aforementioned company are on standard web design tutorial sites. However, as I have discovered, these tags aren’t even standard, which means anyone using any other screen reader won’t benefit.

(Eheheh, not sure if I answered your question. Lemme know!)

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That’s a feature which all screen readers have. The author need not write anything differently, the user can get the screen reader to spell out anything it can focus on.