Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

Telling Voice Over Talent How to Pronounce Words

how to write a pronunciation guide - microphone - recording studioAs you develop your Message On Hold, IVR announcements, and other audio marketing programs to be read by professional voice over talents, you will need to think about pronunciation. First, you will need to consider how your audience pronounces words. Most words have one or two acceptable pronunciations. To verify these, you can check in a dictionary or go to, an online encyclopedia of pronunciations (with audio files). Depending on the accent in your region, your customers might use an alternative pronunciation. That's okay--the point is to match how your customers are already speaking, not to teach them what is and isn't proper.

As you script your program, highlight words that you know your audience says in a certain way. If you’re really not sure about your accent, call a friend who lives out of state. Of course, you can always call us—we’re based in New Jersey, so we know a thing or two about accents. By pulling out these words, you or your script consultant will be able to tell voice talent how to pronounce all the words in your script by developing a pronunciation key.

If you decide to write your own pronunciation guide, start by listing the words you know your audience says differently. Next, write out each of these words phonetically. Consonants are usually straight forward, but vowels can be e a little trickier to represent. Start by writing the actual vowel in the word (A, E, I, O, U). If your word has a long vowel sound, add an E to the end of it. If you have a short vowel sound, the letter itself can stand alone. A long vowel is represented by the actual letter used (a,e,i,o,u) followed by an e. Short vowel sounds are represented by the letter alone. the word "data" can be written as "dae-tuh" or "da-tuh." If you decide that you don't want to create your own pronunciation key, don't worry about it. Just take the list of words you already have, and your script consultant can help you get your specific pronunciations across.

Regardless of your decision to direct voice talent yourself or work with a professional script consultant, your success in creating effective marketing messages depends mostly on one thing: knowing your audience. Ultimately, pronunciation is about your audience. If your listeners say “pin” and “pen” the same way, don’t confuse them by choosing the “proper” pronunciation. Instead of making your message sound better, it will distract your audience, making your marketing messages nearly useless.


For a complete list of pronunciations and information about writing scripts for audio marketing, download our FREE Guide to Effective Scriptwriting.

Tags: tips, voice talent, scriptwriting