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More Voice Over Mistakes To Avoid

04 November

Over-pronunciation is a key voice over mistake to avoid.

As many of you already know, one of the great skills of voice over is knowing how to convert someone else’s written word, into great ‘spoken word’.

You need to make the language sound like it’s your own.

No matter whether you’re delivering a message on behalf of a company, that’s full of information and detail…

Or you’re reading in a conversational tone (as though you’re talking to a friend) you still need to sound completely natural and connected to the language in that script.

To do that you need to look at the words on the page as a guide only. 

The words are all spelled out, but we don’t speak in a spelled out way.

No matter where we’re from, we apply the accent and rhythms of our region and those around us, to connect the message directly to them in a way that’s familiar.

One of the voice over mistakes I often hear from newcomers in the voice over business is  being too formal and precise with word pronunciation in the script they’re reading.

Somehow those who’ve been taught elocution at school, think voice over is also about correct and precise pronunciation.  

It’s just not!

Let me explain…

When you’re given a script, you’re looking at ‘written word’.

Usually it’s written in correct sentence structure and honours all the rules of good writing:

  • Correct grammar,
  • Spelling,
  • Punctuation, and
  • Paragraph structures.

However, when we’re in conversation, we often don’t obey these rules.

Depending on where we’re from and what our regional accent dictates, we create a rhythm in our delivery that connects with our listening audience.

For instance, we:

  • String words together,
  • Drop, or soften vowels and consonants from the beginning, end or middle of words,
  • Use contractions, ‘I will’ to ‘I’ll’ etc..
  • Pause whenever we like, and
  • Don’t necessarily honour full stops.

To help you understand just where I’m coming from on this subject, I’ve recorded the rest of the blog in an audio file, so you can hear the difference.  

Stringing words together happens no matter where you’re from.  I’m Australian by the way, so that’s the accent you’ll be hearing.

For instance, if you have a phrase in a script that reads,

“Every day of your life, for the rest of your life”,

you need to deliver the words in those two parts, separated by the comma, as though they are one long word.

I call this ‘sliding’.

To do this, you need to remove some of the letters in some of the words, so that the read sounds smooth and connected…and if you do it well enough, quite poetic.

The trick is to not make vowels too pronounced.  Over pronunciation is definitely one of the biggest voiceover mistakes you can make.

I like soft vowels – hard vowels can be soooo ugly!

You can also drop consonants, mostly from either the middle or end of a word to make it sound more natural.

In Australia, just as in the US, Canada and the UK, whether to drop consonants or not is really down to the region and (often) you socio economic status.

In Australia, for instance, the word ‘better’ is pronounced beda.  The ‘t’ becomes a soft ‘d’ and the ‘r’ is just ignored.  If you’re in Australia and say the word as written, you’d sound like an alien!

So, in this example from the script, “Every day of your life, for the rest of your life”, I’d remove the second ‘e’ from the word ‘every’, and make the word ‘of’ an apostrophe v (‘ve) after the word day, so it sounds like day’ve, rather than day of.

I’d make this choice because pronouncing the letter ‘o’ in the word ‘of’ is very clunky, because you need to reposition your mouth from the ‘ay’ sound at the end of the word day, to make the sound ‘o’.  It would sound like day of and I’d want it to sound like day’ve, which is much smoother.

I’d also turn the word ‘your’ into the contraction ‘ya’, but, once again, soften the ‘a’.

So, ‘Every day of your life’, becomes ‘Evryday’veyalife’.  We still hear all the words but it’s just slides together perfectly and is much and easier on the ear.

The rest of the line is dealt with similarly, ‘for the rest of your life’.  The word ‘for’ becomes ‘fa’, the ‘of’ after rest, become an ‘ve and the word ‘your’, once again becomes a ‘ya’ and sounds like  ‘fatherest’veyalife’

The whole phrase now becomes, “Evryday’veyalife, fatherest’veyalife”.

You see how the words in each part, have now become one long word…and you just slide the words in each part together.

Let’s go back to reading the words as written, to see how clunky it now sounds.  “Every day of your life, for the rest of your life”.

It’s hard to make this phrase sound poetic, connected and full of meaning if you pronounce every vowel and consonant.

I know, this all sounds so pedantic and fiddly – well, I am a Virgo! – but voice over really is about the art of finessing language…not getting it ‘right’ in a formal, articulate way.

Sure, in voice over you need to be clear – but that doesn’t equate to being formal.

It equates to being engaging and delivering the right meaning.

But no matter where you live, you’ll need to start listening to, and analysing the way you and others naturally convert words so that they sound familiar to those around you and completely conversational in tone.

It’s the only way to avoid voiceover mistakes that signal that you’re just reading someone else’s words, instead of converting them to your own.

This technique will make you a better voice over artist.

Clients will listen to your reads and hear the connection to the ‘meaning’ rather than formality and correct pronunciation.

Happy voiceovering!


Abbe Holmes About Abbe Holmes
Find Your Voice As a Voice Over Actor And Artist With The Voice Over Coach. For over 30 years I've had a successful voiceover career. I work in mainstream voice over for radio and television, narration for the corporate sector, website content and documentaries, as well as characters for animation, IVR, ADR, on-hold and foreign film dubbing.

9 Responses to “More Voice Over Mistakes To Avoid”

  1. Emma November 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    That made so much sense! It was really good to be actually able to hear what you meant too – thanks heaps!

    • Abbe Holmes November 5, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

      Hi Emma
      Thanks for sending me a comment. It’s the first time I’ve used an audio to explain something. Now that I’ve worked out how to do it through the cloud (new technology for me) I’ll do it again.

  2. Peter Sardi November 9, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    You are so clear Abb. Thanks for this post … AND I love the Audio accompanying the written text. Grazie!

    • Abbe Holmes November 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      Hi Peter

      Thanks…I’m getting good feedback on the audio explanation…must do it more often.

  3. Nicola Redman December 1, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    Good tips again Abbe, must sound natural

  4. John Davenport December 10, 2014 at 3:51 am #

    This is awesome Abbe. Its one of those subtle things that we forget about in really communicating a message vs saying a bunch of words. Having spent so much time in broadcasting…this is an example of something broadcasters like myself need to work on to be more believable. The audio here helps and I don’t any other coach out there is doing this as they probably don’t want to “show the secrets to the shop”.. Thx. John

    • Abbe Holmes December 10, 2014 at 8:47 am #

      Hi John
      Thanks for the heads-up on this blog. I’ve had lots of great feedback on the audio. Yes, it’s true that not a lot of coaches do free stuff at this level…but I want people to get information that can make a real difference to their work immediately.

  5. Mel February 12, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    A really useful reminder Abbe thank you! And to echo the other comments the audio addition was the icing on the cake! To hear you provide examples is SO helpful.

    • Abbe Holmes February 12, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

      Hi Mel
      Thanks for your message. It’s been popular that’s for sure. It really helps me to know what kind of information voice actors want.

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