Unhelpful Office error message for Read Aloud

Our award for ‘Unhelpful Office error message of the week’ goes to this remarkable effort in Word 365’s Read Aloud feature which is just the start of Microsoft’s uselessness.

We were trying to demonstrate Read Aloud in Word 365 when this singularly useless dialog appeared!

“Read Aloud isn’t available because something is preventing it from starting”


Really Microsoft, that’s the best you can do?  Just a vague ‘Something’ with no other error message or clues!

At the very least, perhaps an error code that customers could look up?  Or maybe a little troubleshooting of the components to narrow down the failure point?

Since this is Microsoft Word running on Microsoft Windows, most likely the ‘something’ is a problem with a Microsoft product.   Perhaps that’s why the error message is so vague, Microsoft can’t admit the possibility of a problem with their software?

Unhelpful Help

But, I hear you cry, there’s a Help button that will take you to troubleshooting info to solve the problem.   Oh, how naïve.  Please remind us to sell you a few Microsoft-branded bridges at reasonable prices.

The ‘Help’ link is just the standard page for Office 365 Learning Tools. It’s not even specific to Read Aloud which gets a passing mention plus some shortcuts, no troubleshooting help at all.

Microsoft is confused by their own error message

Even Microsoft staff are flummoxed by the pointless error message.  This support forum thread is typical.  Microsoft staff asking questions that the customer has already answered or irrelevant, probably stock paragraphs dumped into a reply.

They suggest the time-honored excuse of computer staff – reinstalling software.  In this case the customer reinstalled Office 365 with no change.  So then Microsoft suggests using the offline installer!  Clearly another delaying tactic since it’s highly unlikely there would be a difference between the two install methods.

Little wonder the thread ends there, presumably the paying Office 365 customer gave up hope of getting any substantive assistance from Microsoft.

We don’t blame the two Microsoft staffers, they are giving the stock responses their bosses insist upon.

All involved are frustrated by the non-specific error message which (deliberately?) gives no clues towards a solution.

As for us?  We gave up on trying to show Read Aloud.  If Microsoft can’t be bothered to help paying customers, we customers should not be expected to waste time on the feature.

More useless Office error messages?

Have you seen a vague, unhelpful or just plain useless error message in Microsoft Office.

Our ‘Read Aloud’ example isn’t the only one.  The Office installation process is infamous for ‘Something went wrong‘ errors with non-specific error codes.

Please let us know via our Feedback page, please include details of where the error occurred and, ideally, a screen shot of the offending dialog.

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