Typewriter back to back with a laptop
Today, we’re going to start engaging in a series of articles called “Vital Signs”, an innovative and thought-provoking tour that explores and questions how technology has affected the voice over industry and those within it.

These posts were inspired by an article in The Atlantic written by Nicholas Carr titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”
First up to bat is interpreting copy.
Does reading a script on your computer screen as opposed to a printed copy make a difference in your preparation, interpretation, and performance?


Ever since email and the world wide web graced this earth, we’ve been participating in an ongoing experiment that challenges us make use of transferable skills regarding how we communicate, use technology, and allow new mediums into our lives through which we are entertained.
Let’s take writing for example.

Word Processors

For perfectionists, word processing has been a wondrous gift as you can type something easily, and if desired, play around with the formatting, choose attractive fonts, and edit cleanly with precision by spotting spelling mistakes and fixing them immediately. Don’t forget copying and pasting! Now there’s something we’ve all made use of at some point if not on a daily basis.

Business people have also benefited from word processing as have teachers and students. Truly, it has affected us all in one way or another, hopefully making our lives richer for it.
Although word processing has changed how we create written content, it also has changed how we interpret and consume the written word, particularly online.

Technology Changes You More Than You Think

Cited in Carr’s article in The Atlantic, a German scholar, Friedrich A. Kittler, noted that the brilliant yet controversial 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844-1900) prose “Changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style,” following Nietzshe’s use of the Malling-Hansen Writing Ball typewriter later in his career as his eyesight began to fail him.

Nietzsche himself said, “Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts”, also acknowledging that thoughts often depend on the quality of pen and paper.
Whether you identify with or vehemently oppose Nietzsche’s published writings and his personal beliefs, he does make a good point in the quote above about how the tools you use may shape the end result of whatever it is that you are trying to achieve.

Has the Internet Changed How You Read and Interpret Copy?

As the recipients of scripts emailed, downloaded or viewed online, have these new technologies affected your artistry, and consequently, the style of your reads?

For instance, consider the following:
๏ Do you read scripts on your computer monitor?
๏ Do you print them off?
๏ Are your scripts formatted in a certain way?
๏ Are the scripts placed on a stand or read directly from the computer?
๏ Do you prefer a particular font or font size?
Your performance depends upon the tools at your disposal which enable you to interpret the written word and let art flow from your mouth throughout the signal chain.

Have You Noticed A Difference In Your Performance Using Newer Technologies?

Looking forward to reading your thoughts on this!
Best wishes,


  1. Remember when our personal computers would only work using a series of commands? Black screens with a single color (amber or neon green), no mouse (mice?), and cutting and pasting was a complicated series of Shift + F4 + >, spin around 3 times in your desk chair, and voila! OK, maybe not that bad, but I remember as a copywriter being asked to use the new Macintosh computer. It was 1984. The agency head told us it would revolutionize our writing, since it could all be done on the screen, and we could revise it as many times as we wanted! My co-copywriter and I clicked on a couple of things to see how they worked, then went back to our yellow legal pads to write our spots. In about 30 minutes, we faced the Macintosh, and carefully typed our handwriting onto the tiny screen. Voila!
    As with any new technology, it takes time to master and feel comfortable with it. Now I can’t imagine using a yellow tablet and a pen to write. How archaic! And some habits just die hard. I have never not once used my spell check. I prefer to do it myself, thank you. For example, how can a computer tell the difference between “site” and “cite” and which one you meant to use?? As the senior copywriter for an ad agency back in the day, I was the last person to see the copy before it went off to the printer. If there was a mistake (and the client found it), he or she didn’t have to pay for the job and our agency had to eat the cost. That kind of pressure can make you pretty good at finding mistakes. But with all of the tools available to us, does it make us lazy? I’d have to answer with a resounding YES!
    And as far as printing copy or reading it off the screen, it totally depends. If it appears in 4-point type, I highlight it, copy it and paste it into Word, then make the type at least 14-point. Demo scripts are rarely printed out, but long-format pieces always are. My copywriter soul takes over and has to fix every missing space, every sentence fragment, every misspelling and forgotten punctuation mark, then write in my own notes on inflection, emphasis, etc. It is a satisfying process, and something with which a machine just can’t compete!

  2. If I am self-directing, and it is the kind of material I do a lot, I read off the screen. If I hear something that I want to do a different way, I just do and edit.
    Some phone patch sessions are done from the screen, but it depends on the script. I did a political for a new client today – phone patch – and printed out the copy. (I also changed the font from ALL CAPS to upper lower case.) I ended up NOT making any marking, but I had the option if necessary.
    But if it is in my ISDN booth, I will always print it out. For two reasons – I don’t have a screen in that booth (:-) for one thing, but the main reason is that I am responding to other people and must be able to mark changes and directions in order of get the read they want the next time I open my mouth.
    The software I use for telephony requires reading off the screen – Vox Studio. But IVR prompts for the same client follow the same pattern week after week, month after month and marking the copy isn’t really necessary…or shouldn’t be necessary.

  3. I like to read the copy over on the computer, print it out and use that as a basis for any editing, marking etc. I also like to keep client scripts for my own information and perusal. They’re great for practicing or voicing in different contexts.

  4. New technology is a great thing! Especially when it comes to timeframes; however, as in the radio game, sometimes it was fun, educational and gave us alot of experience of how things are done by just doing. Not pasting, cutting, auto maneuver, whatever. Technology as I said is great and I enjoy it, but on the other hand, I sometimes feel it’s becoming scary.
    S. Suekey

  5. I agree with Robin in that technology changes us, and not always for the better.
    I remember when we had to use our own, internal spelling dictionary in order to properly write a letter. Then again I remember when punch cards were used for computer programs, and the Internet was the land of the UNIX gods.
    Point is that while technology can be, and often is a wonderful convenience, that it has a tendency to dehumanize us. How often does something get misinterpreted on a Web board? How often do people not use their God-given intellect because it’s easier to let the machines do the work for us. As Rosie O’Donnell infamously once stated, “I think there’s no way they should have to teach it [mathematics], now. We have computers.”
    I think it is precisely because of this feeling that I still read at least 2-3 books a week on average, and write correspondence in long-hand. Maybe it’s me, but I’ve never known where I was capable of going without knowing where I’ve come from.
    That said, I’m writing this on a laptop through a WiFi signal, so I guess I’m as much of a hypocrite as anyone else, lol!

  6. Hi Stephanie and all!
    Here’s my 2 cents! I like the speed & convenience of receiving auditions/scripts by email, but I always print them off.
    If it’s a long one…I even copy and paste it to Word, so that I can print it in 12 or 14 point and double space. I prefer a clean typeface such as Arial or Century Gothic.
    Then I’m free to mark the copy as needed.
    And, I like the efficiency of being able to email voice files so quickly — for an audition, a demo that has to be to a prospective client asap, or emailing to the client for approval or changes.
    I don’t use the email feature on my phone, but as my voice over career escalates…no doubt I’ll do it when time is of the essence!
    Cheers all…

  7. I like the convenience of a computer, but it tends to make first drafts look like the finished product. I always print off the script and mark it- it helps if you have something physical in your hand, with marks on it that you’ve made.
    I like 14 point (at least) with double spacing.

  8. Stephanie,
    I’ll determine at the time whether or not I’ll read from my screen or print the script. For most commercials or narration auditions, I’ll read from screen. If it’s a job, I almost always print the script. This is especially the case if the job is via ISDN or phone patch, because the client may want to change things on the fly. I am accustomed to working that way because it’s fast and visual, which works well for me. Plus I guess being a creature of habit, this is the way I’ve worked for a long time, and I am comfortable with my method.
    There’s something very tactile about marking my script with a pencil, and I am always ready to step up to the sometimes numerous and inevitable copy changes.
    Thanks for the insightful article.
    All The Best,
    Bobbin Beam, ISDN Voice Actress

  9. My rig is in a special room for audio… the computer is way acroos the house (on a line-level interconnect, connecting the two.) I always have to print the copy – prefer serif, and 14 point font, which I’ll convert to if necessary. I also will highlight the text if only part of a script.
    My thinking is that by moving into a special space you are putting yourself psychologically in that special performance zone which allows a best read. Of course, if I don’t nail it, or feel I could do better, I’ll record several runs at it, with slight variations.


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