As said over and over, having a good voice is not enough to land a voice acting job, nor it is sufficient to be able to create a good demo. You work behind the mic, so people rely on what they hear from you in order to understand you. The clarity of your speech and the way you interpret the script are two things that you must always bear in mind.
Even if you possess the best equipment in your home studio, if they cannot understand what you are saying, then the job will definitely not be yours. Yes, you may possess the most charismatic voice there, but if you cannot pronounce some words properly, you would have a big problem. The good news is, you can do something about it. The Voice Realm published an article on how to practice your diction. They listed easy tasks that would help you pronounce words correctly.
However, there is another variable that might be ruining the clarity of your recording. It is a poorly written script. A well-written script makes any recording session for a voice over actor so much easier. So, if the script you are reading has poor spelling, poor phrasing, or if it is not properly punctuated, you will definitely find it hard to read the script according to its original intention.
Punctuation is important for voice overs as it works as an aid in reading, phrasing, and in the overall interpretation of the script. Unfortunately, not all the scripts you receive are well-made, so it may need a bit of tweaking in the spelling, grammar and/or punctuation.
As a voice actor, why do I need to proofread the script?
For a smooth recording, before hitting the record button, you must always read the script first for you to be familiar with the content. Watch out for the script’s grammar, specifically the spellings, and punctuation marks. You may need to work with the client if there are any concerns with the grammar (as you can’t just make major changes to the script without letting them know), but correcting the spelling and punctuation is something you can easily do.
Of course, you also have to do your own assignment. You need to familiarize yourself with the meanings of punctuation marks in order for you to deliver the script properly.
What are the basic rules in using punctuation marks?
Period – or full stop for the British, marks the end of a logical and complete thought, as long as it is not an interrogative or exclamatory sentence
Comma – separates phrases, words, or clauses in lists; it can also be used to emphasis an item, point or meaning
Exclamation point – is used to express exasperation, astonishment, or surprise, or to emphasise a comment or short, sharp phrase.
Question mark – marks the end of all direct questions.
Colon – used to expand on the sentence that precedes it, often introducing a list that demonstrates or elaborates whatever was previously stated.
Semicolon – used to join phrases and sentences that are thematically linked without having to use a conjunction, and it is also instead of commas to separate the items in a list when the items themselves already contain commas.
Quotation mark – used to cite something someone said exactly.
But as you go through your script, you can also add some personal marks that can help you interpret and deliver the directions better.
Commas – as we mentioned earlier, commas are used to emphasise an item, point or meaning. Add commas to the script where you feel there should be a natural pause.
Highlight – whether you are using a Word document or printed out scripts, highlight words that needs careful pronunciation – jargons, company terminologies, or difficult to pronounce words. Make sure you check back with your client to get the correct pronunciation.
Underline – another way to show emphasis for a word, phrase or even sentences is by underlining it.
Greater/Less than signs – use this to mark parts of the script where you need to slow down or speed up your pace
Virgule – or “staff” and “rod”, you may use slash (/) for short pauses, and dash (–) for longer pauses
There are also lesser known, yet very interesting marks that you can add to your list of punctuation marks to use. These punctuation marks express more than the usual stops and emphasis – they represent different feelings that you can use as a guide in interpreting your script.
Acclamation point – this mark represents ‘goodwill and welcome,’ so if you see this sign, the script is asking for your voice to be warm, friendly, and kind.
Certitude point – this is used to express conviction and certainty.
Interrobang – a combination of an exclamation point and question mark. This is used to express excitement, or utter bemusement.
Sarc mark – a mark used to emphasize a sarcastic phrase.
It can be hard to memorize how all of these marks look like, so it would be better if you keep a picture of them on your phone with their meanings. Whenever you encounter a rarely used mark, you will be able to check your notes. This is just what a responsible voice actor would do!
Do you use special marks to help you read your scripts better? Share with us your tips.