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Voice Over Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

20 October

Finding The Right Words!

I work with so many people who have a really good voice for voice over. 

They’re personable, interesting and engaging when they speak.

But often when I give them a script, what comes out of their mouth is the opposite of what I just described.

The first thing I hear that doesn’t work?

I hear them ‘reading’. 

I hear them looking at the words on the page and spelling-them-out-one-by-one.

Well perhaps it’s not quite as staccato as that – but it’s certainly not fluid and natural…the way it is when we speak in conversation!

Our job as voice over actors, is to take someone else’s written language and make it our own.

When you’re skilled at that, you’ll get work. 

But if that’s still a problem (or you haven’t yet realised it’s the reason why you’re not getting the work you feel you deserve) you need to go back to your work and listen to it with a ‘new’ critical ear.

Words on the page that are written to be looked at are very different from words on the page that have been written to be spoken.

Written word can cope with being more formal. 

Many people use formal language to write, especially in business.

That’s why you’ll often get formal language in a business, corporate or industrial script – but it’s hard to read isn’t it?

Sometimes, you’re able to make it more conversational and natural by making small changes, such as using contractions:

  • ‘we’re’ instead of ‘we are’,
  • ‘haven’t’ instead of ‘have not’.

Using contractions takes the focus off those words and allows you to place it on the word or words that are ‘about’ the message or information.

Which brings me to the point of this blog – emphasis on the ‘wrong’ word.

You know that voice over is somehow about emphasis…but what emphasis and why?

This is a simple process, although it can take some time to be really proficient at it.

It’s all about:

  • looking at the script,
  • working out what the product is,
  • what the reason for the script is,
  • what the message is, and
  • where the words are that are only about those things.

Those words…and only those words are where emphasis is placed.

 

Here’s a script I want you to look at:

 

Kmart know, that with everything kids get up to,

their clothes have to be made to last.

That’s why we’re putting Kmart Kidswear to the test.

So, if your child outwears their clothes

before they outgrow them

Kmart guarantee to replace them

Just keep your receipt.

It’s called the Kmart Kidurable Guarantee.

If you’ve got kids…you’ll know that’s just what you need.

 

Now, I’m going to mark it up, with emphasis on the wrong words and then explain why they’re wrong and how to look at a script so that you find the right words.

Read it aloud putting emphasis on everything that’s italicised.

 

Kmart know, that with everything kids get up to,

their clothes have to be made to last.

That’s why we’re putting Kmart Kidswear to the test.

So, if your child outwears their clothes

before they outgrow them

Kmart guarantee to replace them

Just keep your receipt.

It’s called the Kmart Kidurable Guarantee.

If you’ve got kids…you’ll know that’s just what you need.

 

Okay – that didn’t sound too bad did it?  However, I’ve italicised all the wrong words.  When you read with emphasis on these words, we don’t fully get the meaning or purpose of the ad.  

 

Remember, the thing about voice over in commercial markets, is that we’re trying to get our message across to a ‘half-listening’ audience.

The only way to do that, is to understand where the words are that are absolutely and only about the message.

I want you to look at what you just read again, and only say the italicised words…one after another.

See if you get the story of what the ad is about.  Go on – give it a go!

 

So, it just sounded like a bunch of random words didn’t it?

And that’s what it will sound like on air if you choose to put the emphasis in that way. 

There’ll be a dis-connect between the words and the message.

Great voice over actors connect with the message every time.

You need to find the story thread in the script – that is, the words that give you the message loud and clear!

And you need to avoid putting any emphasis on words that don’t.

Here we go…

 

Kmart know, that with everything kids get up to,

their clothes have to be made to last.

That’s why we’re putting Kmart Kidswear to the test.

So, if your child outwears their clothes

before they outgrow them

Kmart guarantee to replace them

Just keep your receipt.

It’s called the Kmart Kidurable Guarantee.

If you’ve got kids…you’ll know that’s just what you need.

 

Now look at this version again, and read the italicised words only.

You’ll see that there’s a flow of information that is simply about the message.

A script like this is always going to be slightly clunky, because the language is very stylised – this style is so common in voice over.

So to book more work:

  • use a combination of the skill of finding ‘important’ or key words, and
  • a conversational voice style.

You’ll get the message across, satisfy your producer, engineer and clients, and keep getting booked!

If you haven’t already seen the Seinfeld Episode where Kramer gets a line on a Woody Allen film, ‘These pretzels are making me thirsty’, just click this link for a giggle.

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.

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3 Responses to “Voice Over Mistakes And How To Avoid Them”

  1. Larry Wayne October 22, 2014 at 5:20 am #

    Abbe…Excellent material! Having a strong radio background myself, the idea that people only listen to radio in the background resonates well with me! So, don’t waste time quacking! I don’t save many blogs…but I’m saving this one for future reference! Thanks for sharing.

    • Abbe Holmes October 22, 2014 at 10:08 am #

      Thanks Larry
      Happy that it’s been of some help to you. Everyone seems to like this blog, so that’s good news. I’m often surprised at what resonates with people.

  2. Nicola Redman November 2, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Great advice Abbe, it’s quite a skill to get used to. But finding the meaning behind, and reason for, what your saying, whatever it is, is a good place to start.
    Nic

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