11 Top Tips For Writing A Script
So, you’ve written your script for a voice artist to read and you’ve included all the important points, its straightforward, you’ve left out all the technical jargon, and you're pretty satisfied with it. You send it off to your voice over artist, but what comes back isn’t an mp3 recording, but a long email from the voice artist with a load of queries.
To improve your voice over scripts, I’ve outlined some script writing tips, which you can also download (just click on the button at the top of the page).
Read your script
For many people, their only experience of writing is in report writing for work. For some, it may be as far back as writing an essay in school! Both of these have something in common - the report and essay were meant to be read not spoken.
Reading your script in your head is all well and good, but reading it out loud will help you pick up many of the issues that befall a poorly written script. It will help you hear whether it flows naturally, or if there’s too long a sentence or there’s a clunky transition from one subject or point to another.
The most common way to improve the flow of a script is to make it conversational (if that’s what you want from a script) and the best way to indicate this is to contract words such as I’d, haven’t and we’d. You could write in the first person (I, we) which makes it more personal and conversational. Write how you’d speak as a script should never sound as if it’s been written.
Get to the point quickly by writing short sentences. You risk losing your audience if you take to long to say what need. Be concise and focus on what it is you need to say.
If a transition from one point or subject to another sounds clunky, use yet, however, meanwhile. This gives the listener a cue and prepares them for something different.
Whilst we are all used to using less punctuation in our emails and texts, the missing comma in a script could give your sentence a different meaning than intended. A famous example is of an English professor who wrote the words: ‘A woman without her man is nothing’ on the chalkboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly. All of the males in the class wrote: ‘A woman, without her man, is nothing.’ All the females in the class wrote: ‘A woman: without her, man is nothing.’
A comma also tells the voice artist where to pause in a sentence, particularly when there is a list. This also gives the script room to breathe and enables your listener to form a picture in their head of the idea you wish to emphasise. They say a picture tells a thousand words, but you want your viewer to focus on a particular aspect of your product or company.
Never write a slash (except in a web address) such as staff/visitors. Do you want it read as staff and visitors, staff or visitors, staff and or visitors, or even staff (pause) visitors?
Spell it out
So often, scripts contain dates or web addresses for example, and these should be written out exactly how you’d like it said. 2019 could be read “twenty nineteen”, or “two oh nineteen”, or “two thousand and nineteen”.
When asking listeners to click on your website, do you need to say the www. in your web address? If your script says “ visit our website at moirataitvoiceover dot co dot uk” your audience will understand, and nowadays you don’t need to put the www in a search engine. And always let your voice artist know whether you want it read as dot or point ie 15.2 “fifteen point two”. Frequently I come across the use of the word number spelt as No. 8, for example, which you probably don’t want read out as “noh dot eight”. This takes us to abbreviations and consistency below!
A voice artist may not know which pronunciation of a word is required as there may be no clue in the sentence. “She fell on to the bow” doesn’t reveal which pronunciation is correct. Did she fall on to the front of a ship or a weapon? You could write it either as “She fell on to the bow (bo) or, She fell on to the bow (bough)”.
I often see abbreviations and acronyms in corporate explainer scripts and whenever I query if it should be read out as written or as its full-length words, it can be 50/50 (see the use of a slash above!). Some acronyms are so well known (NATO or FIFA) that you would never want them read out in full. Others you may want read out in full the first time they appear in the script and then subsequently as their acronym. And never assume the voiceover knows what it means. I use the example of FRAS of which I am a member, but I’m a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society not the Astronomical Society!
And finally, be consistent in your spelling, punctuation, and grammatical rules. If something changes, we voice artists will question if it was intended and will query it.
So how do you write a script? Download the full 11 Tips for Writing a Script from the button at the top of the page and save yourself lots of time, hassle and money. And if you need a professional voice over artist for your project, I'm happy to do a sample audition; just fill in the form here:
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