Want to make your voice talent happy? Want to make your next voice over session go more smoothly, perhaps saving you some money in the process? Take an extra minute and examine your voice over script. Following a few simple rules can make your script easier to read, easier to interpret, and ultimately get you better reads in less time from the voice over talent you have hired.
White Space is Good
Voice over scripts come in all shapes and sizes and can often vary depending on the application. Some include visual cues and storyboards. They can have lots of instructions for interpretation or none at all. No matter the format, the first rule of voice over script formatting is to allow plenty of white space. Always send scripts to voice talent double spaced to give room for pencil edits in the session. Make sure the type size is large enough to read comfortably, preferably at least 12 pt. If possible, simplify scripts that have video information included. While it’s helpful to know what the visuals are, when a :30 TV script comes on 3 pages it makes it harder for the voice talent to follow.
Don’t Go CAP CRAZY
Capital letters in the online world signify raising your voice or yelling. In the voice over world they can show the talent points of emphasis, but you may not realize that a script written in ALL CAPS is harder to read. We tend to see words as familiar shapes more than individual letters. Scripts are much easier to read and perform when you use capital letters only at the beginnings of sentences and for proper nouns. This is especially true when cold reading a script that comes right at session time.
A script without good punctuation is like a road without traffic signals. Sure, you can get where you’re going, but the likelihood of crashing and burning goes way up. Without proper punctuation in a voice over script it becomes impossible to tell where thoughts begin and end and can drastically change an interpretation.
Go Easy on the Text Formatting
When used sparingly, Bold, Italics and Underlines can help the voice talent see the most important points in your copy. But be careful. It’s easy to go overboard. Most good voice talent will be able to interpret which words deserve more weight. Giving too many signals in the script will limit the range of the read and may lead the voice talent to make unnatural points of emphasis!
Numbers and Symbols
Often times scripts come in with numbers and symbols written out as words, which is important if you’re using word count as a guide to script length. Most voice talent, however, prefer to see such items written as the numbers and symbols themselves for performance purposes. It’s much easier to process and read a phone number when it’s shown as 123-4567, rather than one-two-three-four-ﬁve-six-seven. Same goes for dot-coms (.com), monetary ﬁgures ($) and symbols (%).
Is it Ralph LAUR-en or Ralph Lau-REN?
Look your script over for words that might present questions on pronunciation. This might include localities that an out of town voice talent might not necessarily know (for instance, Worcester MA, is Wʊs’tər, not WOR-chester) or people’s names (It’s LAUR-en, btw). For technical or medical scripts, consider printing out phonetic spellings to save time. If you don’t know how to pronounce some of the words yourself, there are plenty of handy websites to help out.
.doc vs .pdf
Many sessions have copy changes that come on the ﬂy. Often voice talent read scripts directly from their laptops or computer screens in studio. Word documents allow them to type in changes as you go. Sure, you can copy and paste the text from a PDF into a word doc, but that’s one more step that might be on your dime if the session has begun.
The voice talent you hire probably is not going to complain about how the script comes in too often. They’re probably happy to have the gig, so even if you send it hand written on a napkin, most are likely to just go with it. But if you take a few extra minutes to prepare your script properly, you’ll avoid wasting precious studio time.