8 tips that will improve your VO script.
Updated: May 6, 2020
Here are a few tips on how to improve your script for spoken English (and other languages). By using these simple tricks the voice talent will know where to pause, how to pronounce, what words you would like to be emphasized, etc. It's important to tell the voice talent where to pause if you know you'll need to cut or edit in post. This avoids unnecessary retakes by getting it right first time.
1. Use commas, dots, and underlines to tell the voice talent where to pause, what words to emphasize, or how to phrase a sentence.
"The block to the left will describe what to do...and the one to the right how to do it."
With an extra comma and some underlining, you could tell the voice talent even more about how you'd like it spoken.
"The block to the left will describe what to do...and the one to the right, how to do it."
Now the talent will also make a short micro pause before "how" due to the comma and also emphasize "how" as its underlined.
Use these signs when writing VO scripts for videos etc.
... = long pause (0,5-1s).
, = micro pause (also helps how to phrase correctly).
"xxxx" = will be read as a quote or "between the lines" depending on the text.
xxxx = emphasize the underlined word.
Double break between text blocks = Longer pause (2 seconds) and a new fresh start (will be read like a new chapter).
2. Write in text what you want the talent to read! Phone numbers, years, or other numerics or shortenings can be difficult to know how to read. The year 2020, for example, could be read "twenty-twenty" or "two thousand and twenty". By writing it out in plain text there will be no misunderstandings, and if you're paying by the word in e-learning projects, you'll have the correct word count. Remember numbers and abbreviations count as separate words.
3. Use bullet lists if it will be a bullet list in the graphics.
In many e-learning projects, there are graphics projected as bullet lists. When reading these the voice will automatically create a pause between each block and also almost always read with an "ending" tone for the last "bullet". If you like an "and" before the last bullet, write it in the text.
4. Do not mix the text to read with other texts or instructions. The script should only contain the text to read (unless it's a conversation). "Mixed" documents can create mistakes and unnecessary retakes. Also, try to use not to complex sentences as long sentences can not only be difficult to read, but also challenging to listen to and understand.
5. Try to write in text, how to pronounce difficult words or names. Use phonetic text or use similar words that can explain how to pronounce. Alternatively, send a note, for example, "bow" as in "cow" not rhyming with "low". To make 100% sure it will be correctly pronounced. Record a pronunciation guide on your phone/computer and upload in the Voicemachine project.
6. Always have your final voiceover recorded before creating your animation (after all it's the way Disney animation do it). That way you always get the right spacing and intonation... rather than squashing it in after you've created beautiful pictures.
7. Always read it OUT LOUD before sending it to the voice artist, so you know roughly how long it's going to be. Don't say it needs to fit in 60 seconds if there are too many words for that slot. You read approximately twice as fast in your head than when you have to breathe between sentences out loud. 120-140 words per minute is a good estimation.
8. Written English and spoken English are VERY different. Always try to use spoken English when writing script. Contractions are a great example of this. On the page "I am going out to see what he will do for me" works - but in spoken English it's better to say "I'm going out to see what he'll do for me" Use these tips and you'll save both time and money in your production!
Special thanks to Mark Ryes for helping out with a few extra tips and proofreading.