Voice over diction

We all want our reads to be understood by the listener. However, this is not as easy as it appears because we are competing with years of habit. Many,many years in my case.

1. ”The” and “a”.

We pronounce “the” with a soft “e.” Pronounce “a” with a soft “a”. This is how we generally say these words in everyday conversation. Unfortunately, when reading scripts, we tend to over-enunciate and, use hard vowels.

One would imagine that over-enunciation would be a great way to cope with lazy diction. However, it’s not; in fact it only goes to highlight the fact that you’re reading from a script.

2. Slur words.

I had a terrible problem “slurring” my words. It drove me nuts, but no matter how many times I looked at a script I found it almost impossible to spot the words which were going to be a problem.

Remember that your voice over is often mixed with sound effects and music, so it’s not that easy to pick out slurred words anyway. Listeners rarely hang on your every word, no matter how much you may like them to do so.

At the “Edge Studios,” they suggest to look for multi-syllable words, break them into separate syllables and concentrate on each one, pronouncing each of them individually. For example, if “particularly” is particularly difficult to pronounce, pronounce it with a space between each syllable, like this:


Then, connect the syllables, while still concentrating on each one individually:

So ensuring that your delivery is clear enough for the most casual listener to understand.

3. Complicated “tongue twister” phrases.

When similar sounds are connected in a phrase they become “Tounge Twisters” usually because the scriptwriter concentrates on the message and not the delivery.

The problem comes when you attempt to connect the words.

So, break the sentence down into individual words and pronounce each word separately.

To illustrate the point, pronounce each word with a space between it, like this:

“The…Sensational …One…Day…Super…Sale…a.t…Sainsbury’s,…starting…this…Saturday…at…6!

Then, connect the words while still concentrating on each word individually:

“The sensational One-Day Super Sale at Sainsbury’s, starting this Saturday at 6 am!

If you want to get in some practice, because that’s all it takes, have a look at the Guilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Patter’ songs such as the “Lord Chancellors nightmare” or as the “Edge Studio” suggest:

  • Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
  • Sally sells seashells by the seashore.

4. Over-articulation.

If you over articulate it will stick out like a sore thumb and sound completely daft. For example:

  • effective (The first “e” should be soft, not hard.)
  • often (The “t” should not be pronounced.)
  • vegetable (The “et” should not be pronounced.)

5. Use the dictionary.

Always carry a pocket dictionary with you because if you don’t know how to pronounce a word, you won’t sound confident, so look it up. Once decided, stick with it throughout the script. A point to remember. If the producer wants you to pronounce it one way, then so be it, it’s his call.

* TIP * Most website dictionaries include an audible pronunciation guide.

6. Contractions.

For informal scripts, you will read in an informal way. Because in ‘real life’ no one crosses the ’t’s and dots the ‘i’s’.

You know when it is hot…I grab a cold beer.

…should be read like this:

Ya’ know when it’s hot, I grab a cold beer.

So, there you are. Perhaps not the most comprehensive guide, but it works for me.

With thanks to the “Edge Studio” from whom great blogs come.

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