Exclamation pointAre you getting The Point?

Guest blogger and voice over expert Marc Cashman shares more than a thing or two about how you can recruit punctuation marks to work for you.
Read the article here and then listen to Marc’s podcast discussing punctuation on Voice Over Experts!

Get the Point!

By Marc Cashman
One of the many topics I cover with my voice-acting students is navigating punctuation marks in copy or text (I make a distinction between copy–the words and phrases used in advertising or promotion–and text, the words spoken in narration).

Punctuation marks can be easy or difficult to navigate for some voice actors, depending on their skill and depending on how good or bad the writer is in using punctuation correctly.
And while the period, comma, colon and semi-colon can be used fluidly; the question mark can be used in dozens of different ways; and narrating quotations marks takes a bit of skill in timing; the one punctuation mark that needs to be honored and should never be ignored is the exclamation point.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard voice actors ignore exclamation points! And I don’t understand how they miss them! They’re impossible to ignore!. There’s no other punctuation mark that makes its presence known as well as the exclamation point (okay, I’ll stop with the exclamation points for now!). Granted, copywriters use them liberally, particularly with retail or direct response copy: “Do it today!” “Call now!” “But wait, there’s more!” But that’s no excuse to miss them or pretend they’re not there. The writer placed them there on purpose–they didn’t plant themselves on the page by accident! Oops–did it again.

But exclamation points are used for just one purpose: to convey excitement!

Sorry, I just had to use one there. And when you see exclamation points in copy, that’s the writer’s way of telling you, “Make this sentence exciting!” (Oh gee, I did it again)
An engineer I work with, who has listened to thousands of voice actors, recommends bringing a pocketful of exclamation points the next time you have a piece of retail or direct response copy to perform, and, if they’re not embedded in the copy, liberally sprinkling them over the page. Sometimes there are sentences which don’t have exclamation points that need them, but too many sentences with exclamation points will start sounding silly after a while.

Just how much excitement should an exclamation point convey?

It needs to be appropriate to the product, situation and audience.
Exciting copy for young kids for Hotwheelsâ„¢ is going to be read differently than exciting copy for a casino aimed at adults. And there are so many different degrees of excitement — the amount of excitement and projection varies in myriad situations. Shouting in a stadium, “All right, a home run!” or ringside at a boxing match, “Knock him out!” Exclaiming “Happy Birthday!” or “Happy New Year!” at a party.

Seeing someone take a fall and exclaiming, “Oh my God!” or accidentally knocking omething over and apologizing, “I’m so sorry!” Calling to your kids, “Dinner’s ready!” or hailing your neighbor from your porch, “Hey, haven’t seen you in a while!” Then there’s hushed excitement, when you lean over to whisper to your friend or relative or spouse at an opera or a recital, “I been waiting for months to see this!” Confessing to a loved one, “Oh, you are gonna love this!” or fighting with them, “You never listen to me!” Sometimes excitement goes into the realm of terrorized or insanity!


Here’s a tip if you see a lot of exclamation points throughout a spot: be careful not to get too excited at the beginning, otherwise you’ll have nowhere to go but down. You need to ramp the energy up — gradually, believably, and paced out.
Plus, if you’re being directed in a session, the director will explain the appropriate energy you need to give exclamation points in the script. Just don’t ignore an exclamation point. Honor it and give it its due. Get the point!

Marc Cashman
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