Recently, I have taken on a fairly new role. I don’t just write the scripts for our automated product demos, I also prepare them for the voice actor and submit them. Writing scripts was not a huge transition, but preparing a script for a voice actor has been a huge learning experience. There’s a lot more to it than I ever imagined. It entails a lot of time, money, and in some cases deep concentration to make sure that everything is in order. So I’m sharing my three rules that I like to follow very closely when submitting a script.
Rule 1: Double—no, triple check your script
Really, I mean it. You will thank me later. Even the smallest mistake can send your voice actor into a tailspin. Regular proofreading is absolutely necessary for obvious reasons; so double and triple check everything you are writing for spelling, punctuation, and phantom words.
There is more to it than just proofreading though. How does the script sound when it’s read out loud? Even if all the grammar and spelling is correct it does not mean the script is perfect. You need to be able to read the whole script out loud and have perfect cadence.
When I started out as a “Teen in the Newsroom” at the Modesto Bee (my hometown newspaper) one of the editors gave us some wise advice: no matter what we were writing, we should read everything out loud to ourselves before turning it in for editing. This tip has helped me so much in all of the different kinds of writing I have done over the years—especially scriptwriting. I have found that the best projects I have completed in my career have been ones I read out loud multiple times to ensure accuracy and flow. I think this worked in the journalism and marketing world because people could almost hear how I meant my words to sound to the reader. This is called having a voice, and it’s a wonderful gift to have if you’re a scriptwriter because it can make your script flow smoothly when read. However, it can also be a curse if not used properly. Having a professional voice actor read something that you’ve written in your “voice” can be problematic for demo videos without the proper instructions. This leads me to rule number two.
Rule 2: Write clear instructions for your voice actor
Writing instructions for the voice actor includes telling them the tone of your piece. For example, many of our clients ask for upbeat yet professional tones. Most voice actors know what you mean, but it may take a read or two to get it just right. Every change you need to make to a script can cost you money too, and it adds up fast. So, making sure things are pronounced correctly can save you a bundle.
However, another aspect of scriptwriting is describing in brackets how you want a word to be read. This doesn’t seem so hard, but I have learned never to assume that a voice actor will know how to pronounce anything. For example, I was recently observing a colleague who submitted a script to a voice actor. We gave the voice actor instructions and gave timeframes for each of the sections we were submitting. When we got the voice recording back we listened to every single piece. There was only one error. The voice actor mispronounced an acronym. To be fair, we thought they would know how to pronounce the acronym, but they did not. We learned a very important lesson that day: when in doubt, always spell it out. It never hurts to spell out the pronunciation of a word, number, or acronym. It’s better to give more information to the voice actor and have them think you’re silly than to give no information and have them read it incorrectly.
Rule 3: Make sure you’re picking the right voice actor
Make sure you know exactly what gender and age you want your voice actor to be. The script itself is important but finding a voice that appeals to your audience is also very important. Make sure you take into account your target demographic and use a voice that would appeal to them. Then double-check their cadence, the way they pronounce certain letters, and their overall attitude. You might tell the actor to be upbeat and professional when their voice is more smooth and quiet. Remember, this is the voice that is selling your product. You want it to be perfect.