Illustration of a young boy with letters coming out of his mouth to express vocal direction. Voice Over

How to Give the Best Voice Over Direction

Having a great script is an essential first step in creating content that entertains and interacts with your intended audience.

However, since a script can be interpreted in many ways, you also want to ensure that you are being clear in your instructions to the voice actor, so he or she can help you achieve your ideal sound in your voice over project.

So, how do you convey how the script should sound to the voice actor? What should your scripts even sound like? How can you increase accuracy in the delivery of your script to ensure as few retakes as possible?

5 Script Writing Tips to Help Voice Actors Nail Your Read

Achieving a great voice over read starts with crafting a great script. After all, if you’re not clear on the flow, words, and cadence first, then you won’t be able to clearly convey how the script should sound to the voice actor who has to bring it to life. While there are many elements to creating your script, considering these five script writing tips can set you and your voice actor up for success:

  1. Write clear copy

Don’t get too caught up in the end-use for your project when it comes to scripting. As a rule of thumb, script copy is considered clear when it mirrors how people actually talk. Think about the words you’ve chosen and how they flow when spoken out loud. Does it sound conversational, or stiff and forced?

Voice actors often recommend the clients give their script to a coworker or friend to read out loud just to hear how it sounds before sending it off to a voice actor to record.  

  1. Properly space your script

Provide your voice talent with a script that is double-spaced in order to allow them to clearly read the words. This will also give them room to write notes or add in their own markup to the script, which will assist them in nailing the read.

  1. Use simple punctuation

Avoid more complex punctuation, such as percentage signs or dollar signs. Instead, spell out the symbols. For example, write out ‘eight dollars’ instead of $8. If you need to indicate a pause in speech, add in commas or even ellipses to signal a natural break during the read. If you want to place emphasis on portions of the script, apply boldface or italicized formatting on words that need extra ‘oomph’ to indicate this direction to the voice talent. 

  1. Give pronunciation cues

You want the script to be as easy to read as possible. Be sure to write out the phonetic spelling of any difficult or unfamiliar/industry jargon words. Avoid tongue twisters. 

Tip: If you’re unsure how to create phonetic spelling, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary online provides phonetic spellings of just about every English word you could imagine.

  1. Abbreviations and numbers

As a best practice, spell out any abbreviations to avoid confusion on how they should be read. Chances are, if an abbreviation is causing you to pause, you should be spelling it out. Take the term “ROI,” for example. Do you want it read as R-O-I, or “Return on Investment”? Specify how you want it voiced. 

When it comes to numbers, be sure to spell out how you want them voiced, too. It’s not until you sit down to write a script do you realize there are a few different ways to read a phone number! For instance:

Example phone number: 1-888-277-9172

Read Option 1 – One, eight eight eight, two seven seven, nine one seven two

Read Option 2 – Eight eight eight, two seventy seven, ninety one seventy two

Be clear if you prefer a phone number, address, website containing numbers, or anything else, to be read in any combination of those two “read options” above. 

How Should Vocal Directions Be Given?

The answer to this question will vary depending on the nature and scope of your voice over project. Let’s look at how you can give the best possible creative direction to voice actors auditioning for your project.

Tone

Tone of voice plays a huge role in how your content is felt and understood by your audience. Although some scripting content may be a bit dry and oftentimes complex, the tone of voice can really help bring your content to life.

The tone is something within your control while you’re writing the script, so go into your script writing with a tone in mind and let it permeate throughout your script.

Take elearning content or modules as an example. When it comes to creating educational content that entertains (even if the content may be a little dry) there are directions you can provide to ensure the most entertaining read is achieved.Digging into the conversational read of your voice over a bit further, it is worthy to note that you want to use a human voice. While text-to-speech can be a quick way to add voice to your visuals, it often sounds too robotic. A human voice has been proven to be more engaging.

Style / Role

The role and style you outline should depend on your key audience. Are you targeting middle-aged adults or children? Will your audience be mostly male or female? Studies show that audiences respond best to those that sound like a peer, which is something to consider as you select a voice that best reflects the demographics of the elearners you are targeting.

The artistic direction you give will dictate the way you want the voice actor to speak. You’ll outline the style and role of your voice over project in the job description when you’re ready to post a job, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to outline what style and role you’re envisioning. 

Think of a role in a similar fashion as a role for stage acting. It offers a generalized view into the character and gives the voice actor an immediate sense of who you’re looking for: a millennial, a trucker, a detective, or anything in between. 

On the other hand, style indicates how this character communicates. They may be eccentric yet sophisticated, or perhaps they’re authoritative yet personable.

In general, it can be effective to treat your audience as a peer, speak in a relaxed manner, and use simple language. Using contractions is okay! Not only are contractions (e.g. ‘it’s’ instead of ‘it is’) commonplace, they make the voice over sound more relatable and colloquial

On Voices, there is an option to add one role (e.g. Announcer) and up to two adjectives to describe the style of read that you are looking for (e.g. Authoritative, Engaging). This is a built-in starting place where you can select these descriptors from a drop-down menu.

There is also the option to add ‘Artistic Direction’ in your own words. This is where the magic really lies when it comes to providing great vocal direction. If you rely on only the Role and Styles options in your job posting, it doesn’t give voice over talent enough direction to work with. Why? These adjectives are subjective. What sounds upbeat and engaging to one person may not sound that way to another person.Using words like ‘believable’ as a way to describe a job isn’t always bad—it just needs to be coupled with more explanation. What does believable mean to you? On this note, voice actors recommend that you include an example that demonstrates what you mean by your choice of description—a link to a YouTube or Vimeo video, or even an image of your project to help them understand your meaning.

Pacing

The rate of speech can have an impact on how engaging your content is. Too slow of a read will be boring and your audience won’t stick around, but too fast a read means your learners may not be able to absorb enough information. According to the National Center for Voice and Speech, the average American speaks at around 150 words per minute when engaged in conversation. When you’re listening back on your voice over, it should sound clear to your ears. Take note of whether you are tuning out at any parts of the narration due to a dull or slow read. This is an indication that the pacing is the issue.

Using an Active Voice Versus a Passive Voice

Aim to make your read sound more conversational by using either the active voice or the passive voice where appropriate. An active voice is one where the subject is performing the action: ‘He eats pizza.’ The passive voice is when the object becomes the subject: ‘The pizza was eaten by him.’

Although the passive voice might sound a bit strange in the above example, there are times when using the passive voice might make sense and help contribute to the conversational flow of the read. A natural-sounding voice performance leads to greater learner engagement.

Tip: Creating educational content (like corporate explainer videos to elearning modules)? Get a deeper dive on the impact of passive vs. active voice in Instructional Strategies: Voice Over Scripts.

Now that you know the elements that comprise a great script and what consists of a good read, you are well on your way to making your voice over project engaging and memorable for your consumers/audience.

Ready to hire the perfect voice? Sign up today!

Related articles

Voice Over
How to protect your voice IP when working in AI

As synthetic speech adoption grows, so do the opportunities for voice actors. Companies want AI voices that resonate with their audience.

Voice Over
Success Story: Voice Actor David Holmes

Voicing characters provided David to grow his portfolio on Voices and join the millions of users in finding their own success stories.

Voice Over
How to Transition from Singer to Voice Over Artist

Voice over is a fast-growing industry. Read on and learn all the key information on how to transition from a singer to a voice over artist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Comments

  • Avatar for Chehak Wadhwa
    Chehak Wadhwa
    June 11, 2019, 8:05 am

    Awesome content with lots of information. Thanks, Chantelle for sharing this content. Really voice over plays a very important role in any video creation. I have also written content that related to this article and helped the beginners to elevate their brand by following those steps.

    Reply
  • Avatar for Elfi Littmann-Kaba
    Elfi Littmann-Kaba
    October 29, 2019, 3:37 am

    Great advice – thank you!
    An expressive professional voice over really increases the value of a video production.

    As there are many Malagasy names and words in my documentary which are somewhat difficult to pronounce, can I send the voice talent an audio file with the OFF spoken and pronounced by myself, together with a lo-Res version with timecode ?

    Reply
    • Avatar for Tanya
      Tanya
      November 19, 2019, 10:29 am

      Absolutely! That sounds like a great idea to help them nail the pronunciation and delivery.

      Reply
  • Avatar for Ernestine
    Ernestine
    February 18, 2020, 7:37 pm

    I personally was unaware of this Career goal as a Voice Actor. I’m blessed with a deep-raspy voice. But for the most part my voice sounds strong yet sensitive. Im extremely interested in Voice Work. I enjoy reading a loud and hearing a variety of words- meaning the pronunciation, the tone, the flow and being able to hold the audience attention. Your voice should keep its balance, but allow for expressions and pitches to be specifically recognized by level of voice tones. I love to write and delivery speeches, short stories, poems with enthusiasm. This career is me and I adore using my voice, talent and skills vocally…

    Reply
    • Avatar for Colman
      Colman
      October 13, 2021, 5:52 am

      Am from.Kenya
      I am working on this new career….
      I just love doing voicing…

      Any coach around??

      Reply
      • Avatar for Niki Clark
        Niki Clark
        October 14, 2021, 8:24 am

        Hi Colman!
        There are plenty of coaches around to help you! We have a full directory of voice over coaches who can work remotely with you to help you build up the skills to be a voice actor.

        Best,

        Niki

  • Avatar for DPN Talent
    DPN Talent
    April 15, 2022, 3:10 am

    Thanks for sharing an informative blog

    Reply