Pronunciation Guide, Please
The Curse of Knowledge
It's surprising - shocking, really - how many scripts contain uncommon words with zero guidance on pronunciation. I often wonder if it's a test to see if the voice talent will do the extra work to look it up. But I suspect what's really happening is "the curse of knowledge," meaning you don't realize how unfamiliar a name or a word might be to someone else. You just assume everyone knows how to pronounce it because you do.
Non providing a pronunciation guide doesn't just make the job more difficult for the voice talent, it often slows down the entire project by requiring corrections later on that could have been avoided with a little guidance up front.
Words That Give VOs Trouble
What kinds of words am I talking about? Here are some of the types of words that may be common to an "insider", but not so much to every one else:
This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
As usual, It's an Easy Fix
The remedy is to take an extra proofing pass through your script and look for the types of words I just mentioned. Write a quick pronunciation guide, preferably at the top of the script where the talent will see it right away.
If you want to be absolutely sure the pronunciation will be delivered correctly, talk to the talent directly or record yourself pronouncing the word and send it to them. It is ALWAYS helpful and appreciated.
Please, Watch Your S's!
One of the hardest things for a voice actor to do...
It isn't performing a funny character that strains the voice or pronouncing a multi-syllable medical term that no one but doctors have ever spoken.
Nope, one of the hardest things for a voice actor? Pronouncing two S's back to back. As in:
"That's when she discoverS Spic-and-Span's true superpower, cleaning dirty dog dirt."
Why you shouldn't put to S's together:
One of two things typically occurs when two S's are put together like this:
1. The S's get slurred together. This can much two words into one weird hybrid word, or can make the voice actor sound drunk. Neither sounds appealing.
2. The S's get over-enunciated. This sounds completely unnatural in almost every piece of copy, especially since so much copy calls for "natural", "authentic", or "conversational." Over-enunciating sounds like reading, not conversing.
It's an easy fix!
Fortunately, there's (usually) an easy fix. Just read the copy out loud, and if you run into a couple of Ss awkwardly hanging out together, see if you can change one of the words without changing the message of the copy. Here's an example of how to fix the Spic and Span sentence:
""That's when she experienced Spic-and-Span's true superpower, cleaning dirty dog dirt."
Unfortunately, this is a very common problem. Fortunately, it's also a pretty easy fix.
Do we really need another voice over blog?
The answer? No. And yes.
There are already a gazillion blogs, video channels, classes, courses, and webinars about how to become a voice actor, how to improve at the craft of voice over, and how to run your voice over business. Many of those resources are truly helpful...to the voice ACTOR. And there are so many that it can be like a giant echo chamber at times.
But what about all the other people who affect the quality of a voice over product? You know, the writers/copywriters, creative directors, video producers, e-learning designers, and audio engineers that are often involved in projects that include a voice over component. As far as I can tell, nobody is helping THEM get the most out of the voices they hire.
So, I thought, "I could do that!" And here we are.
What will I share on this voice over blog?
I will be sharing short, helpful tips for all those people I mentioned above — from the point of view of a successful, hard-working voice actor. As voice actors and voice over artists, we have been encouraged to be "directable", easy-to-work-with, humble, and non-confrontational. I promise to be all those things, and a little more. I want to tell you things that many voice actors wish they could say, but don't. We tend to take what comes to us, grateful to have the gig, and rarely offer up ideas or suggestions out of fear of offending someone and losing a client for life.
But I don't believe it has to be that way. I believe ideas and suggestions can be offered up in a non-confrontational, non-critical way that is genuinely helpful and even downright friendly. After all, we're all just people trying to do the best work possible. Why not do everything we can to make it even better?
I don't have any grand plan or content calendar. I'll simply post a tip whenever I run across something in my day-to-day voice over work that might work better with a little tweak. Or when something goes particularly well, I'll explain why and give props to the people who made it happen.
So, thanks for joining me on this journey. Let's make some great VO together! And ALWAYS feel free to add your thoughts and comments. A conversation is always better when both sides participate!
I'm a successful, hard-working voice actor for commercials, videos, e-learning, audiobooks, and more. These are tips I wish every writer, director, producer, and engineer knew to get the most out of their VO.