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In voice over, what is a word?

When it comes to voice over, do you know when a word is not “a” word? Did you know that many written “words” have the magical ability to expand and grow?
If you ever order voice work and sometimes wonder why your carefully crafted script designed to fit into a 15 or 30 second spot sounds like it’s being read like a commercial disclaimer, the answer may be right in front of you.
Did you know that words aren’t just type on a page? When things printed on a page are spoken, they become a period of time. And some things have a lot of words hidden inside of them!
Some of the biggest examples? Numbers (especially phone numbers) and web addresses. On a page, you think “that’s just one number” or “it’s just a web address”.
But try this! Actually speak it out loud! For example, 555 222 1212. You might call it one word, you may call it 3 words. But when you sound it out, it becomes “five five five, two two two, one two one two” or “five five five two two two twelve twelve” or (at it’s shortest) “triple five, triple two, twelve twelve”. That phone number goes from being “one word” to being at least six words and can be as long as ten!
And web addresses! They are a lot of fun too. Most of the time you look at something like and think, “Oh, that’s just one word!” Not so fast! When you go to speak it, it magically grows to seven words! “w w w dot fiverr dot com”. Every element has to be spoken and becomes its’ own “word.
And don’t forget initials, abbreviations and acronyms! According to normal standards, a 30 second spot can be up to about 75 words. So you have a 30 second spot with about 70 words and are using a companies initials, HRTDM. You think “Well, I’m using it 5 times so that’s only 5 words!” Not so fast! Here’s the challenge: each of those letters has to be spoken idividually, and because it’s a company name, you want it spoken with a little emphasis so people hear it clearly. So that “only 5 words” has now grown and added an extra 20 words to your spot! Now your voice actor has to try to stuff 90 words into 30 seconds. Can it be done? Sort of. Will it sound natural? NO! It will sound like all the legal stuff at the end of a drug ad.
So the best thing for you to do as a content creator? Take you script and speak it out loud while timing yourself. You can save yourself, and your voice actor some time and hassle.


Wow, great write up!

I never thought about that. Thank you for taking the time to write an informative post. :slight_smile:

8/10 would read out loud.


Glad you enjoyed it!

Rule of scriptwriting: Always read it out loud.

Oh yeah!
And out loud means truly out loud, not just mumbled through. The pace you want and as if you’re talking to a person next to you, not whispering in their ear.

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