When we, as instructional designers, write scripts that are easy for voice over talent to understand, they can record and edit those scripts faster. We’ll also end up with a better end product. Following a few formatting tips for voice over scripts can make our our writing clearer and easier to use.
This is part 2 in my series of posts on tips for creating voice over scripts.
- 1: Voice Over Scripts: Writing Style Tips
- 2: Formatting Tips for Voice Over Scripts (current post)
- 3: Voice Over Script Pitfalls
- 4: Voice Over Script Review Checklist
Jill Goldman of Goldivox shared several tips with me about what she looks for in scripts from her perspective as a voice over professional.
- Readable Font, Size, and Spacing
- Pronunciation Guides
- File Names
- Table Format
- Dialog Format
Readable Font, Size, and Spacing
As is a good idea for any written communication, use a clear, readable font in decent size. Jill says 12- or 14-point fonts are usually good.
Some organizations have specific requirements for fonts and spacing. For example, I’ve been asked to double space scripts. If your organization has standard practices, follow those guidelines; they probably work fine and are what people are accustomed to working with.
What elements need pronunciation guides in a script?
- Jargon or unfamiliar words, including complicated, technical, and medical terminology
- Abbreviations and acronyms
- Numbers (2010: two thousand ten or twenty ten?)
Jill explains that the best pronunciation guides:
- Type it out phonetically, with capitals on emphasized syllable
- If possible, provide an audio link to the pronunciation of word.
Jill notes, “sometimes these are not the best pronunciations, so be sure to listen first and know it’s as you want it. If the script is in English, do you want a British English pronunciation? North American? Australian? Please try to provide a link to someone reading it in the accent you’d like to have it.”
Example Pronunciation Guides
- Vivitrol [voice over: VIH-vih-trohl. Listen here]
- NIAAA [voice over note: Say N-I-Triple A]
Think about the regional accent of your audience as well. Jill pointed out:
If your intended audience is North American, but the script is about Australia, you may want to consider using North American pronunciations for words like “Cairn” and other Australian places. Also, if you are using slang in the script, be sure it makes sense to the intended audience. If the audience might be world-wide, you may want to leave out any slang that may not be understood by varied listeners.
Jill shares that it makes her life easier when the screen names are clearly marked in the script. Voice over professionals often edit their recordings into separate files for each screen. Making the divisions between screens clear and noting the screen name or number helps them keep everything straight. If you have preferences for file naming conventions, be sure to explain your system and make it match the script.
While a table format isn’t necessary, it can be helpful. This is especially true for scripts with numerous pronunciation notes (like the snippet below from a training with a significant amount of medical jargon). This format uses one column for file names, one for voice over copy, and one for pronunciation help.
|M4S67||The oral version is known as Revia; the sustained-release version is Vivitrol.||Revia: reh-VEE-uh.|
Vivitrol: VIH-vih-trohl. Listen here
If you’re writing dialog for multiple characters, check what format is preferred. I tend to use the character name in bold at the beginning of each line, but I worked with one individual who preferred a TV script format with the character name centered in all caps above each block of dialog. I include notes about other sounds, actions, or tone of voice inside brackets and italicized, but as long as they are clearly set apart you don’t have to follow this format exactly.
The examples below are from the video script for my Story-Based Coaching and Mentoring course. The tips for writing voice over scripts generally apply to video scripts as well. However, there are some differences, such as describing actions.
Example Dialog Format 1 (Bold Character Names)
Michael: What’s the problem?
April: Well, when he pushes and wants the delivery date moved sooner again…
Michael: [cutting April off, looking at phone] Hang on…I just got a text message. Let me just reply to this real fast. [texting] OK, where were we?
Example Dialog Format 2 (Centered Character Names)
What’s the problem?
Well, when he pushes and wants the delivery date moved sooner again…
[cutting April off, looking at phone]
Hang on…I just got a text message. Let me just reply to this real fast. [texting] OK, where were we?
The main goal for formatting your scripts is making it clear. Think about how to make your scripts more readable and understandable. Following these formatting tips for voice over scripts helps you communicate what you want more effectively.
Originally published 11/18/2014. Updated 2/3/2022.