Abstract An effective measure of speech intelligibility is the probability of correct recognition of the transmitted message. We propose a speech pre-enhancement method based on matching the recognized text to the text of the original message. The selected criterion is accurately approximated by the probability of the correct transcription given an estimate of the noisy speech features. In the presence of environment noise, and with a decrease in the signal-to-noise ratio, speech intelligibility declines. We implement a speech pre-enhancement system that optimizes the proposed criterion for the parameters of two distinct speech modification strategies under an energy-preservation constraint. The proposed method requires prior knowledge in the form of a transcription of the transmitted message and acoustic speech models from an automatic speech recognition system. Performance results from an open-set subjective intelligibility test indicate a significant improvement over natural speech and a reference system that optimizes a perceptual-distortion-based objective intelligibility measure. The computational complexity of the approach permits use in on-line applications.