The speak-as descriptor specifies how a counter symbol constructed with a given @counter-style will be represented in the spoken form. For example, an author can specify a counter symbol to be either spoken as its numerical value or just represented with an audio cue.


/* Keyword values */
speak-as: auto;
speak-as: bullets;
speak-as: numbers;
speak-as: words;
speak-as: spell-out;

/* @counter-style name value */
speak-as: <counter-style-name>;



If the value of speak-as is specified as auto, then the effective value of speak-as will be determined based on the value of the system descriptor:

  • If the value of system is alphabetic, the effective value of speak-as will be spell-out.
  • If system is cyclic, the effective value of speak-as will be bullets.
  • If system is extends, the value of speak-as will be the same as if speak-as: auto is specified on the extended style.
  • For all other cases, specifying auto has the same effect as specifying speak-as: numbers.

A phrase or an audio cue defined by the user agent for representing an unordered list item will be read out.


The numerical value of the counter will be read out in the document language.


The user agent will generate a counter value as normal and read it out as a word in the document language.


The user agent will generate a counter representation as normal and would read it out letter by letter. If the user agent doesn't know how to read out a particular counter symbol, the user agent might read it out as if the value of speak-as was numbers.


The name of another counter style, specified as a <custom-ident>. If included, the counter will be spoken out in the form specified in that counter style, kind of like specifying the fallback descriptor. If the specified style does not exist, speak-as defaults to auto.

Accessibility concerns

Assistive technology support is very limited for the speak-as property. Do not rely on it to convey information critical to understanding the page's purpose.

Let's Talk About Speech CSS | CSS Tricks (2017)

Formal definition

Formal syntax

speak-as = 
auto |
bullets |
numbers |
words |
spell-out |


Setting the spoken form for a counter

In this example, the counter system is fixed with unintelligible symbols used for the visual markers. However, the speak-as descriptor is used to set the list item markers as numbers in the accessibility tree. When supported, numbers rather than visual markers will be read out by screen readers.

To experience the result of the speak-as descriptor, use assistive technology such as VoiceOver or another screen reader or view the accessibility panel in the developer tools of a browser that supports speak-as.


<ul class="list">
  <li>I had one apple</li>
  <li>I ate two bananas</li>
  <li>I devoured three oranges</li>
  <li>I am not hungry for dinner</li>
  <li>But I'll have five scopps of ice cream for desert</li>


@counter-style speak-as-example {
  system: fixed;
  symbols:     ;
  suffix: " ";
  speak-as: numbers;

.list {
  list-style: speak-as-example;



CSS Counter Styles Level 3
# counter-style-speak-as

Browser compatibility

BCD tables only load in the browser

See also