Difficult words in voice over scripts

Tricks to Tackling Tricky Words in Your Voice Over Scripts

Sometimes a random word in a voice over script will have you tongue tied!

A student in my Advanced VO class was having trouble with a particular word in a script I had sent her to prepare for class.

This is neither uncommon nor a beginner’s problem.

I’ve seen it happen to the best of them and with seemly simple words, but most of the time it’s some word that perhaps you’ve seen before and have just never read it out loud within that particular context.

You may want to try a trick I use when I come across a word like that in my voice over script.

For me, I get stuck because my brain sees this unfamiliar sequence of letters and goes, “that’s a weird word and I’m going to have to work on pronouncing it” …and it does just that, taxing my mental bandwidth (and believe me, I don’t have much to spare!) every time I come across it in the copy.

I’ve found some quick and easy workarounds that leave my poor little brain operating at “peak” performance. Once I look up and learn the correct pronunciation of the offending word, I use one of these two methods, which are both based on replacing the word with a more familiar phonetic version:

Method 1 – word association through repetition:

With my student’s problem word “incentivize” for example, I would concentrate on seeing the word with my eyes, while I repeat over and over in my mind “incentive-eyes”.

Method 2 – complete replacement:

While the first method can have more of a permanent effect, but there are times when you’ve just gotten the script and you’re already in the booth with the director waiting. Also, some words for me are treatment resistant to method 1. I’ve had to resort to more drastic measures and just cross out the word and write my new phonetic word directly above it. This always works like a charm!

I’m sure there are other methods out there as well. If you have a trick to trick yourself into saying tricky words please share it in the comments below!

Wishing you happiness and success!





About the Author: Rob Holt

Rob Holt - Voice BoxRob Holt is an obsessively passionate voice over professional in the Philadelphia area, specializing in casting, recording, producing, and coaching voice overs. After the company where Rob was VO department head closed its doors in 2011, he struck out on his own and formed Voice Box, subsequently transforming him from voice over enthusiast to all out nut! Whether he should be committed or he’s just really committed to his craft, Rob has poured his passion into 100’s of voice over jobs, working with big name companies and small shops alike, as well as the area’s top voice talent. Rob also produces inspiring voice demos for area talent and his many students.

11 thoughts on “Tricks to Tackling Tricky Words in Your Voice Over Scripts”

    1. Hi Ellen! Man, it’s been a while! I know, it’s a pretty innocent word that gets you sometimes. At least you know you’re not alone. I’ve seen it happen to sooo many talent over the years. It’s the worst when it’s a word that shows up in every paragraph of a long script. I’ve had a few times as an engineer where I’ve literally had to copy one of the few times the word was said right and insert it over the spots where it wasn’t and hope it didn’t sound off. I’ve also had the talent say the offending word just by itself until I’ve gotten a clean one and then flown that in to the final edit. Oh what fun! I hope you are well!

  1. Thanks Andrea! Your easy going sense of joy, humor, and gratitude are always appreciated.

    I know you’re really thinking, “that’s great Rob, now get back to producing my demos!” 😉

  2. Elizabeth Michaels

    Rob, what a funny writer you are! Thanks for the tips. I always have trouble with the word mirror. I feel myself tighten up when I get to that word. I’ll have to try your sneaky 🙂 tips to help me next time I’m narrating an audio book and that word comes up. Again, thanks.

    1. Hi Liz! Hopefully you don’t get the “History of the Mirror” audiobook gig…which you won’t because I made it up! And as you tighten up, bracing yourself for the problem word, it effects all the words preceding it. Usually if the job’s not super long and the talent doesn’t bring it up themselves I won’t make mention of it because I don’t want to throw them off. Then we just pickup those lines at the end. Would you believe I’ve found this to yield far better results than me saying, “Hey, for some reason you’re a freak and can’t say the word mirror!” right at the beginning of the session, LOL!!

  3. My surefire way or nailing the pesky word, “anonymity” is to change it into everyone’s favorite relative, “Anna Nimity.” I nail the read every time. Word.

    1. Hey aren’t you that awesome narration instructor from my incredible 8-week VO workshop starting 10/21?! SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!

      Anna Nimity! Brilliant! Wait, I think I dated her in highschool… 😛

  4. “Jamshidi needles” was the easiest part of the demo material you picked for me. 🙂 Sometimes the pharma babble goes pretty smoothly, and then I’ll become vocally challenged by something like “yesterday.”

    1. Hi Jill! Yeah, that’s the thing. It can be this innocent enough word sometimes, but on that particular day in that particular script, it’s rough going. I love the work we did with your demos! Don’t forget the VakLok syringes with Luer lock! No bone marrow aspiration kit would be complete with out these! 😉

  5. UPDATE: Was recording a pharma job today and the ‘tricky’ word was “contaminated” – a totally easy word to say. After a number of unsuccessful passes we finally figured out that for this particular talent it was the following word “infusate” that was throwing her off. I had her just take a small beat in between the two words. Worked like a charm and took two seconds to tighten the space up in post!

  6. Why buy opsy when you can rent? baBOOM! Thanks for your input Carol Anne! Getting some heavy hitters commenting!

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