Ready, set, go!
When reading copy for advertising, a voice over artist encounters more than their fair share of acrobatics, especially when there’s too much copy crammed into a designated time slot that doesn’t take to accommodating natural phrasing.
Has technology helped you to beat the clock?

Wrangling Words

Squeezing vowels, clipping consonants, and running the gauntlet like an olympian going for the gold… that’s what a voice artist faces when recording tightly packaged ad copy.
As you know, advertisements are read at a speed that is rather unnatural, and sometimes it’s easy to question the effectiveness of a message that is difficult to take in under such unusual parameters. However, since society is used to a faster pace and this style isn’t going away any time soon, I thought I’d better ask…

How Do You Come In Under The Wire?

Do you:
๏ Edit the commercial slightly on your own and hope that the writer doesn’t mind
๏ Negotiate with the writer / client to rephrase or remove words for better flow
๏ Throw yourself in anyway and go full steam ahead hoping for the best
๏ Pace the rhythm, going slower in some instances, faster in others to make up the time
๏ Use some slick editing moves on your software of choice to squeak through

What’s Your Word Wrangling Style? Any Stories to Share?

Looking forward to hearing from you! Leave a comment 🙂
Best wishes,
© Evans

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. I was recently selected to record a 35 second radio commercial for a fast food take away, the buyer sent the script, I did a dry voice run before starting the project, speaking at my normal pace, it came in at 47 seconds.. How on earth was I supposed to sqeeze that into 35 seconds? I contacted the buyer and pointed out my concerns, he said just to do my best. So I spoke as fast as I could without mispronouncing any words, it was a task indeed… I was exhausted. It came in at just over 39 seconds, and after taking out all the tiny gaps etc, I managed to get it down to 36 seconds, after adjusting the speed and pitch a little, BINGO.. 35 seconds precisely!! The buyer was extremely pleased, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

  2. Have you wondered how you’d ever be able to read one of those disclaimers at the end of certain commercials? You’ve probably thought, “How can I ever talk that fast?”. Well, with Audacity audio editing software you don’t have to. Technology speeds it up for you… without sounding like one of the chipmunks. You can increase the pace of the audio you’ve recorded in Audacity without noticeably changing the pitch using the “Change Tempo” function in the “Effect” menu.
    Happy Voicing,
    Ed Autry

  3. Stephanie,
    If you’re within a few seconds of going over the alloted time for your copy you can always “compress” with software such as a Pro Tools plug. As long as it’s not “too” compressed it could still sound natural.
    Raleigh, NC

  4. I boldly ask them to cut the word count.
    Often these overly long scripts come with direction like ‘sound compassionate, or sexy, or real-person’.
    I write back and say there is only one way this copy can sound–and that is ‘fast.’
    When I first began copywriting for radio, I heard things like ‘there is no exact word count, this is not an exact science because everyone reads at different speeds.’
    While there is some truth in that idea, there’s not enough for me to believe it.
    Here is the formula I follow in my copywriting, and I have begun to politely request from my voiceover clients.
    30 second spots not to exceed 90 words. Less is more.
    60 second spots not to exceed 180 words. Less is more.
    A few copywriters/ producers have thanked me for that specificity. I want their commercial to sound good, and too many words will ruin the message.
    That IS an exact science.
    Vicki Amorose

  5. First thing I do is to read with my natural pauses for taking breaths. Then, I edit the breath and most of the pause out. This way, my tone changes as if I had a natural thought pause, but the final cut is continuous.
    I also will limber up the ol’ lips, tongue and cheeks/jaw with some tongue-twisters. Starting slowly and then building speed. This lets me tumble through the syllables in the spot without sounding like I’m laboring to hit them.
    If I’m really tight for time, I find that building up some nervous energy lets me go faster without sounding rushed. Have you ever have one of those occasions where you’re waiting for some important person or event to arrive any minute, and someone tells you that you’re talking a mile a minute (but you sound normal to yourself)? Imagine that excitement and enthusiasm and you’ll get more momentum.

  6. Hello Stephanie,
    I usually speak quickly in short sentences or phrases with a pause between sentences or phrases….then I go back and splice (tighten it up) where I can to the desired speed. It’s important to keep the same tone & style while doing this.
    Hope this helps!
    Michael Reagan


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