Emma Clarke’s Pronunciation Guide
This is a simple guide to help you ensure that your scripts are easy to read and record just the way you want them. Following these instructions will help to avoid incorrect audio being returned to you by your voiceover and will help to ensure your audio is delivered on time.
Write it as you would say it
Make sentences concise and think about giving the voiceover space to breathe whilst voicing your script. (Use punctuation to indicate where the speaker should breathe – this really helps sight-reading). Complex and wordy sentences are not only difficult to read fluidly but they aren’t much fun to listen to either. A good way to test how your words really sound is to ask someone to read it aloud (or read it aloud yourself) before sending it. If it sounds like a bit of a mouthful for you it’s likely to be the same for the voiceover. Remember that short sentences are easier for a listener to understand and easier for us to deliver.
Set an appropriate tone
Think about how your script will sound to a listener and try to set an appropriate tone with the language you use. Writing sentences that are grammatically correct might seem like the right thing to do but often that’s not how people actually speak and it may not help the voiceover to deliver what you want to hear. For example you might want to send an informal birthday message to someone or it may be that you are sending a clip to a grammar fanatic who won’t be happy with an informal message. Setting an appropriate tone is important and your voiceover will only be able to get it right if you tell them what it is that you need.
If you have a specific sound in mind, tell the voiceover with a note. For example: “Happy birthday Jonny, have a brilliant day and don’t forget that it’s all downhill from here” (read excitedly)
Overall, try to think about how to explain what you want to hear and write your script appropriately. Also, try to choose one tone and stick with it through the entire script so it doesn’t sound confused.
It’s easy to mispronounce a name you haven’t seen or heard before, and some common names are even easily mispronounced. Place names, manufacturers’ names, hybrid or compound words can be tricky too.
If you think there’s a chance a name or word might be mispronounced, add a phonetic spelling to assist thvoiceover: Helena Greenhalgh (Hell-ayna Green-halsh) or Mohammad (pronounced Moe-hamm-ad not Muh-hamm-id) Another useful tool for name pronunciation is PronounceNames.com – see if you can find a matching pronunciation and send a link to the voiceover.
It’s really helpful to clarify which syllable of a word is to be accentuated if it’s unclear. For instance, ‘REC-ord’ and ‘re-CORD’ have two completely different meanings. And can you imagine if anyone pronounced Edinburgh as ‘ed-IN-bruh’ instead of EDinbruh?’ Clearly stating which syllable needs to be emphasised is really important.
There are some Anglo-American differences too. For instance:
labOrat’ry v LABratORee.
Skedule v schedule
innuhvaTIV v in-oh-VAY-tiv
The pronunciation debate rages on…
Please write all numbers out fully so the voiceover can ensure they are spoken as you mean them to be. For example if you write “1,000,000” it’s possible that one voiceover might read it as “one million” and another voiceover read it as “a million”. More often than not the voiceover will understand what you mean when you write as number down but spelling it out fully will help to eliminate those times that they aren’t sure.
Please write out all abbreviated words. It is better for a voiceover to see “Morris and Company“, than it is to see “Morris & Co.“, as there is less or no room for error when fully written out.
It’s helpful for voiceovers to see acronyms with dashes between the letters, like ‘C-B-B-C’ rather than ‘CBBC’ (or worse, ‘cbbc’). Remember that voiceovers will read what they see and may not use the same acronyms as you. So if you want us to say “Children’s BBC”, write it out completely rather than typing ‘CBBC’. Some acronyms are spoken as if they are actual words. If that’s the case, please note it in the script so that the voiceover says “gooey” when you type GUI. Otherwise they are likely to say “G-U-I” and your script will need to be rerecorded.
Years and long numbers
If your script includes a reference to 1987 as a year, the voiceover will say “nineteen eighty seven.” But if it’s referred to as a regular number, they’ll probably say “one thousand nine hundred eighty seven” or maybe “one thousand nine hundred AND eighty seven.” If you are fine with these standards, go ahead and include the number in your script, particularly super long numbers. But if you aren’t sure or you want something said a particular way, make sure that the voiceover knows exactly how you want to hear it by including a note.
If you write £26.99, the voiceover might say “twenty six ninety nine” and leave off the Pound reference altogether. If you want the voiceover to say “twenty six pounds and ninety nine pence”, indicate that in your script by writing it out fully.
In the interest of avoiding long strings of numbers and symbols, write out exactly what you want to hear, but leave normal numbers in there. So that means not “3/14/2015” or “3/14/15” but “March 14th, 2015.” And do you want the voiceover to say ‘twenty fifteen’ or ‘two thousand and fifteen’?
Now that most of the population understands what a web address is, we can drop the headers and get straight to the website name: “voicetakeaway.com” (you can type it like that and the voiceover is likely to say “voice takeaway dot com”). If you type www.voice takeaway.com they will probably say “WWW dot voice takeaway dot com.” Again, make sure you write everything as you want to hear it and be as clear as possible to avoid having to have your script rerecorded. If there’s a hyphen in your URL, make sure you specify if you want the word ‘hyphen’ or ‘dash’ in your spoken web address.
Spell and Grammar Check
You already know this, but spell check doesn’t catch typos that are actual words. Unfortunately, if you don’t check and notice, you can’t blame the voiceover for not spotting mistakes and recording incorrect audio. Make sure you read everything aloud and make sure that there aren’t any a/an/and or no/not/nor/now errors (among others). If you aren’t sure, ask someone else to proof read your script before sending it.
It may be that you have decided to ignore all the rules of English and all of our instructions above to get something a little more off the wall. If that’s the case, make sure you tell the voiceover that the script is meant to be that way so you don’t find them trying to correct what they perceive to be mistakes.
Voice Script Checklist
Use this handy checklist to make sure you have covered all your bases before you go into your voiceover session.
- Sentences checked for breathe-ability
- Consistent tone, either formal or informal
- Abbreviations, symbols, and weird numbers are spelled out
- Spell check complete
- Grammar check complete
- I have read the entire script aloud, and it sounds great.
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