Writing a script can be harder than it looks, because by definition a script is intended to be read out loud. When scripting your own Message On Hold program, virtual tour narration, or podcast, simple grammatical errors can confuse voice over talent reading the script and your listeners. There are many misconceptions about proper grammar, word-usage, and sentence structure that plague English speakers. English is not an easy language, and there are many intricacies to remember.
In addition to providing copywriting services for our clients, the Holdcom Script Department also reviews client-submitted scripts, and each day we find some of the same errors. The following list includes some of the most frequent errors we encounter.
1. Slash? Backslash? Forward Slash? How Do You Say That URL anyway?
When working with professional voice over talent, we write out URLs as they’re spoken. This means instead of writing: www.holdcom.com/voices, we write “w w w dot holdcom dot com slash voices”. But there is some debate about which kind of slash is used. If your URL contains the / symbol, remember: Do not write that as “backslash”. Backslashes do not exist in URLs, so if you include a backslash, you’ll be sending your visitors to a non-existent page of your website. The / symbol is technically a “forward slash”, or, just simply, a “slash”. As URLs have become used more prevalently in marketing, advertising, and customer service, “slash” has become standard practice, and it’s understood to mean “forward slash” in a URL.
2. Who owns that? Show possession, not plurals.
In English, many possessive and plural nouns sound the same when we say them out loud, which leads us to write them incorrectly. For example, the words “parties” and “party’s” are often confused in IVR scripts. Many clients include this line: “To reach your parties extension...” However, this is incorrect usage of the word “parties”. “Parties” is the plural form of the word party, as in, “I went to three birthday parties this weekend.” As an IVR extension only helps you reach one person – or party - the proper way to write this phrase is: “To reach your party’s extension…”.
3. Conjunction-junction…what? How to decide between conjunctions and possessives
Having trouble distinguishing between the words its vs. it’s… your vs. you’re… or their vs. they’re? Here’s the rule of thumb to remember: The words it’s, you’re, and they’re are contractions – condensed forms of “it is”, “you are”, and “they are”. An apostrophe (‘) is used to show that letters have been omitted. However, if you’re talking about a matter of possession – something belonging to “it”, “them”, or “you” – then there is no apostrophe necessary.
4. How Many Choices?
Upon initial glance, most people don’t see any problem with this phrase: “Choose from one of the following options.” But think about it – if you have multiple options, customers aren’t choosing from one of them, they’re choosing from ALL of the options. So when introducing your menu options, be sure to say “Choose one of the following options” or “Choose from the following options.”
5. Does Anyone Really Know What Time It is?
A common misconception people have when talking about their business hours is that Standard Time is valid all year long. Hence many clients include the phrase “Eastern Standard Time”, “Pacific Standard Time”, etc in their scripts. However,Standard Time is only valid for half the calendar year, while Daylight Time is valid for the other half. So if you’re going to mention your company’s time zone in your script, it’s best to state it as “Eastern Time”, “Pacific Time”, etc.
Some of these grammatical errors don’t make a big difference when you’re speaking, but they do make a big difference when you’re reading. And although your final script will be heard by your clients, a voice over talent must read it first. And to ensure your script is read with the proper tone and meaning, the grammar must be correct. Have a professional script writer to edit your work is a big help, but avoiding these pitfalls when drafting your script will allow for fast turnaround and a great finished project.
This post was written by John Falcone, one of our Script Consultants. Learn more about our team at www.holdcom.com/team.