Writing a script to be read aloud isn't easy work.
It doesn’t matter if you are writing a commercial, a marketing video or an on hold message, you have to use the right words in the right order to create the right impact.
The voice talent’s job is to bring your words to life. The last thing you want your voice over (VO) talent to do is guess what you mean or how you want them to say something.
Here are 5 solid points to help your voice talent read the copy the way you mean for it to sound!
1. NO CAPS
A SCRIPT IN ALL CAPS IS LIKE YOU’RE YELLING!!
Not only does it feel like the writer is pitching a fit, but all caps is harder to read. And harder to read is a recipe for mistakes in both text and context. To a voice talent ALL CAPS means emphasize, but it’s better to use a bold or underline rather than all caps if you would like your VO talent to give the words or phrases a subtle yet discernable emphasis.
To voice talent proof your script use simple sentence case in a nice, easy to read font such as Arial in size 12 or 14.
2. Give Pronunciations
The last thing you want to hear in your project is the voice talent mangling your client’s name or their product. When it comes to pronunciation of any kind, I say, “When it doubt, spell it out.” Sure, voice talents can hit up Forvo.com (a pronunciation site) or cull through YouTube videos to try and find the right pronunciation, but it’s much more accurate, and fast, if you let us know how to say it correctly as a note in the script.
Some producers send me an Mp3 with the correct pronunciation two or three times in a row. This cuts down on pickups and patches, and you end up with a much smoother narration. Truth: if there is a way for me to mispronounce something, I will find it. To talent proof your script, let them know exactly how you want something said before they start recording.
3. Zero or “O”
Numbers are tricky. Percentages are shifty. And fractions…forget about it. Voice talents can say numbers in so many different ways and combinations, and invariably, the client would like them read the other way.
Pop Quiz. Say these numbers:
- 1578 – Fifteen seventy-eight or one-five-seven-eight?
- 7.049% – Seven point zero four nine percent or seven point “O” four nine percent?
- $20,995 – Twenty-thousand, nine-hundred ninety-five dollars or twenty-nine-ninety-five?
- 2013 – Two thousand thirteen or twenty-thirteen?
Told you. Numbers are crafty and completely open to interpretation. Take the guesswork out of numbers for your voice talent and state your preference.
It’s that easy.
4. Punctuation is Your Friend
The power of a voice talent is their ability to connect to the material and make it sound believable and natural, and punctuation is key to making that happen. When voice talents don’t have a punctuation road map to follow, we will take pauses when we need to breath or where we think is a good place, which might completely change the context of your script.
The well-placed comma is a thing of beauty. The word “pause” in brackets is fine, but I’ve been known to read those. While it makes for comedy and great out takes for the Christmas party, it means extra time in the studio.
If you want your voice talent to take a thoughtful pause in your script, use punctuation to show us where and for how long.
5. How Do I Read A – (Dash)?
What do you see when you look at Monday-Thursday? Do you see Monday through Thursday? I don’t. I see Monday dash Friday. How about this: www.cool_website.com/callme? It might be obvious to you as the owner of the website, or the writer might have cut and pasted the web address into the script without thinking about how badly I can trash it. In that simple web address, I see all sorts of landmines. To voice talent proof your script, fully write out any of these questionable names or phrases once in a script note. It might look like:
An Example Web Site URL:
Now Written For Narration:
w w w dot cool underscore website dot come slash call me
With this simple step, you won’t have to hear the many variations that voice talents can come up with to say your name or deliver your information incorrectly.
Trust me, I do this for a living!
Does That Help? Let Me Know!
The easiest way to get your message across the way you want it is to voice talent proof your script. You don’t need to spend hours in the studio to get the read you want for your project. All you need to do is write your script so that your voice talent knows exactly what you want to hear. Ask any questions you have below!