Pronunciation – Script Tip
Here’s a simple tip to save money on your voiceover recording sessions.
When you write a script for a voiceover, keep in mind that the voice talent may not know the pronunciations of all the words in your script. Most voice talents have a fairly well-developed vocabulary because they’ve read lots of scripts during their careers. However, we can’t possibly know the correct way to say every word.
This is especially true for words that are specific to your business or your industry, and for regional pronunciations of locations, medical terms, jargon, names, and the like.
Even if you’re involved in the recording session, it’s a good idea to include pronunciations in your script. That will help move the session along without stops to check how to say things. That can save you money since the session won’t run longer while you look up a word.
This should go without saying, but don’t guess at how something should be pronounced. If you don’t know the word, check with someone who knows or look it up. Use the links below to check words you don’t know.
Make It Easy
Here are some tips to make it easy for the voice talent to record your script.
1. Don’t use complicated dictionary pronunciations.
For example, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary uses this cryptic code for saying the word “pronunciation:”
Now does anyone, besides a linguist, really know how to read that?
How do you say an upside down “e?” I have NO idea! And there are three of them there!
Even for those who know how to say an upside down “e” that jumble of symbols will slow things down during recording. Instead . . .
2. Use simple guides on how to say something.
Sound out the word and come up with an easy way to convey that.
Back to our word “pronunciation.” How about showing that as:
Much simpler, right?
Notice what I did with the upper case “A” there? It’s upper case because that’s the emphasized syllable. Capitalize all the letters in the syllable or syllables to be stressed.
3. Put the pronunciations in-line.
In other words, include it right where the word shows up in the script. Having a separate page with pronunciations is fine, but you should also include them in the script right where those hard to say words appear.
Something like this:
“When you need a pronunciation (pro-nun-see-A-shun) in a voice over script make it as easy as possible for the voice talent.”
4. Provide a link to an online version of how to say the word.
I do a lot of medical narrations and one of my clients always includes links so I can hear the words sounded out. Those links are in addition to having the pronunciation written out in the script.
When I review the script before recording it, I can quickly check those words and hear how to say them. Just be sure that the way it’s being said at the online site is the way you want it said. I’ve heard different ways to say a word depending on the site.
5. When in doubt, sound it out
If you question whether a pronunciation should be included in the script, go ahead and include it. It’s better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
6. Don’t assume
You know what they say when you assume? Just because “everyone” in your industry or your part of the world knows how to say something don’t assume that the voice talent will know.
Here’s a simple regionalism as an example.
I’ve lived in both New Mexico and Colorado, two states that share a border, but don’t share how to say the word Zuni.
New Mexico is home to the Zuni tribe of Native Americans. In New Mexico, Zuni is pronounced ZOO-knee.
However, there’s a street in Denver named Zuni, but that one is said like ZOON-eye. Same word, two different ways to say it.
7. Don’t be stingy
If a word is used frequently in a script you can probably drop the pronunciation after the 3rd or 4th time it’s used. By then the voice talent should have it down. But if it’s infrequent and is separated by minutes of recording, then include how to say it whenever the word shows up. See tip #5.
Here are links to sites which have audio versions of how to say lots of words: