Hello, hope you enjoy! Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Great Advice From Edge Studio

These are some very specific points for the VO pro and also serve as a good guideline for the copywriter who provides the scripts we interpret in our daily jobs.

. . . Advice from Edge Studio!
Punctuation is really wonderful. It, uh, punctuates.

Those little marks add meaning in so many possible ways:
  • Timing
  • Emotion
  • Sense of humor
  • Phrasing
  • Clarification
  • Making it easier for the talent to read
  • Makings it easier for the listener to hear
But many voice talent and clients overlook punctuation's potential. So today we look at Punctuation: The unspoken hero!


(1) Not all text is written by a professional copywriter. At Edge Studio, we deal with copy from all kinds of thoughtful, highly skilled writers. But we also frequently meet businesspeople who wrote the script themselves. Sometimes their punctuation can be abysmal.

(2) Many professional copywriters forget that someone else has to interpret what that punctuation mark means.

(3) Some clients don't read the script aloud before giving it to you. So they miss errors.

(4) Other clients read the script aloud, but do so the way they hear it, not as it appears on the page. As a result, you receive an obstacle course of confusing phrases, tongue-twisters and breathless prose.

(5) Then there are the voice artists who skip over the punctuation without much reason. Yes, there are times to ignore it, but there are more times to use it to your advantage. Each instance should be a professional-grade choice.

(6) Often the copy comes straight from print. A marketer might try to save money on their tradeshow video by having you read text taken directly from their brochure. As you should know, printed text is seldom written the way we talk. So the punctuation needs to be changed to some degree.


(1) Skip some punctuation

Some punctuation should be skipped. For example, you may not need to pause at the following commas:
  • "That's one tough, rugged truck!"
  • "For protection against burglary, fire, and natural disaster, trust Allstate."
  • "Sale begins February 9, 2010, at 9am!"
And phone numbers -- while they might be written:
it is usually better not to pause between the "1" and the "800."

(2) Change some punctuation

Sometimes you have to change punctuation.

As when video accompanies your voice over. Suppose you're working on a documentary about the five highest mountains. The script reads:
  • "The world's five highest mountains are Mount Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, and Makalu."
What you don't see in that sentence (but hopefully the director will tell you) is that the video will pan on each range for about 5 seconds. So you should read each mountain's name it as if there were a period after it (rather than the comma).

If there were visuals for the Allstate example above, that list would be another example.

(3) Add some punctuation

Other times, you need to add punctuation. Example:
  • Another reason for adding punctuation is the run-on sentence that allows no place for the listener to think and has no particular point of emphasis and offers no place for you to take a... breath.
Run-ons endanger the quality of any writing (unless you're James Joyce or Wolf Larsen). But in print, at least the reader can go back and re-read. People usually can't re-listen. (Things like audio books excepted, and anyway it's a pain.)

I find that 3 to 5 seconds is the longest somebody can listen without a break in text. (A line of 12-point Times type on the printed page is about four seconds, so there should generally be at least one break within it.)

So give the listener's brain time to process what's coming in, by thinking about the meaning of the copy and phrasing it well.

Be careful not to overdo my advice, you risk becoming choppy. Every pause is not the same.

(4) Analyze some punctuation
How long should you pause at each punctuation mark?
  • "Guess how much Miller Ford is taking off cars this weekend? 20%!"
  • "Guess how much Miller Ford is taking off cars this weekend -- 20%!"
  • "Guess how much Miller Ford is taking off cars this weekend . . . 20%!"
Directors may hear each of these markings a different way. So practice: Teach yourself to develop reasons why and how each version would be read differently. For example:
  • "Guess how much Miller Ford is taking off cars this weekend? 20%!"
This :30-second radio commercial is word-heavy, and subsequently the director needs it read quickly.
  • "Guess how much Miller Ford is taking off cars this weekend -- 20%!"
This radio commercial has a sound effect of a drum roll plays during the break.
  • "Guess how much Miller Ford is taking off cars this weekend . . . 20%!"
This TV commercial shows an on-camera actor holding up a sign declaring 5% off. Then she drops it to find another sign behind it declaring 10% off. Then again a 15% off sign. And finally a 20% off sign.



I can't emphasize this too strongly: It's small punctuation marks that signal the difference between an amateur and the experienced pro.

Punctuation is a matter of making good choices. Well chosen, it become more than a series of breaks. Punctuation becomes the essence of timing, emphasis, and drama.

Hope this helps.

Share or read this article on our website by clicking here.  

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating how much punctuation can affect how the average person reads something. When doing voiceovers, punctuation certainly changes from just proper grammar usage to a tool to signify how to read material. Good scriptwriters use punctuation this way and help the reader along