Working Wednesday: How to Deal With Tricky Words and Phrasing

voice-over technique
When dealing with copy, we sometimes run into tricky words and phrasing that can trip us up. I am providing a few voice-over technique tips and exercises to help overcome such obstacles, especially when you may be dealing with timed copy and hard to pronounce product names.

One of the first things I do with this type of copy is work with over-enunciation. Now I want to be clear that this is an exercise only. New voice actors frequently think they need to pronounce every consonant and vowel they see and be very precise with the script. In reality, this has a robotic effect that can actually distance you from your audience. We want the opposite to be true: these articulation exercises will help hit those consonants naturally and by over-doing the articulation, our mouth will be more relaxed to then read the copy in a natural way. I will repeat a word or phrase I am stumbling on numerous times or use the cork exercise (if you’re a VO Pro member, see Heather Costa’s video in Lesson 1 in the voice-over technique section) to then relax back into my conversational, natural tone.

Another great trick is to mark your script clearly, possibly with hash marks between every word so my eye can clearly see where one word ends and another begins. Start to develop your own shorthand with marking up your script that makes sense to you. Use symbols, smileys, sunshines, stick figures, whatever works for you!

Use “lead-ins” to help get you into the tone of the script. Lead-ins can come in the form of a word,, a phrase, or even a sound (Hmmmm, wow!). Sometimes, you will go back and cut the lead-in OUT of your audition and sometimes, in the case of a short sound or breath, you will leave it in to enhance your read. Remember, breaths and realistic sound cues are only adding to the copy not altering it. I am certainly NOT suggesting changing your copy, but only helping it ‘come to life’ for the listener.

And remember, when in doubt, look it up! If you are unsure how to pronounce something, the internet is your friend! If it’s a product name, you definitely don’t want to take a risk saying it wrong. Look up other commercials to check on pronunciation or even call the company and see how their outgoing message sounds!

Lastly, when dealing with commercials especially for TV,  you may need to get through a tricky phrase quickly due to time restraints of :30 or :15 seconds. Be mindful of your time when rehearsing and be sure to hit the time code if it is being asked of you. Always look on the script to see if it is noted. I have had call backs to be absolutely sure I can hit a :30 second spot in 29 seconds.

Most importantly, practice!! Use these voice-over techniques and add speed to your phrasing as you go through it, then back it up and speak in a natural tone. The more you work on this, the better you will get. Good luck and happy copy reading!!


Also, remember to Rock the Mic TONIGHT at 8pm Eastern with Justine! She’ll be doing a LIVE one-on-one coaching session . You won’t want to miss out on a chance to learn more about voice-over technique!



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