So, whenever we get a script as a voice actor, along with the text we see punctuation, right? It can be an exclamation mark or a question mark, an ellipsis or a semicolon, etc. Those punctuation marks affect the tone and choices we make with the script. An exclamation script can tell us, “This is exciting!” or, “I’m quite angry indeed!” depending on the context. Taking that as the sole guide, we then might make our way through each sentence in the script until the punctuation mark occurs, almost like a steady train making stops. The thing is, we don’t do that in real life. We also have our own interpretation of the script.
The trend in voice-over is being authentic and conversational, and in real-life everyday conversations, we pause throughout our sentences, not just in between them at punctuation marks. Connecting to the messages in your script can guide your performance better than adhering to some strict devotion to punctuation marks. Spontaneity in your performance won’t happen because you marked a pause into the copy.
Sometimes the punctuation mark doesn’t even match the message, the little trickster! For instance, let’s talk about the “rhetorical question.” The line, “What if we told you, we were changing history?” is not a question. This company is not asking; they are telling you, “We are changing history.” They know they’re cool. It is a statement and to go up in inflection would sound odd and uncertain.
Keep an eye out for rhetorical questions in your copy. Consider the choices you make. For example, if your intention was to tell a secret with this line, your inflection might go down as well, and that is where your interpretation and choices affect or ignore punctuation. So, again, if you see a question mark, and your kneejerk assumption to go up in inflection is controlling your read, you may be missing the real point, which is to connect to and express an idea.
That said, there is a time to “honor the comma.” Personally, I love commas. I might ignore one, but I rarely half acknowledge/race through them or take them for granted. I love how they give me a place to take a breath, and how they separate thoughts that I can fully express without racing on to the next thought. They can be a micro-resting place to shift gears and launch me into the next sentence fully grounded and committed. All of that can happen relatively quickly. Adding a comma is helpful if it is a super long run-on sentence. I just make sure I insert the comma in a place that makes sense, where it doesn’t cut a thought in half.
There are times however, clients want it read exactly like it’s written, and they’ll let you know they want those pauses only at the commas. They want you to exclaim!!! I mean, you really love that cat shampoo, so much that you use it yourself!!!
Also, consider genres that are not geared toward the “conversational” sound. Medical narration can be pretty dry and formal, so the punctuation is often mapped out in the way they want it to be read. It’s probably not a great idea to perform a complicated piece of medical copy as if you’re gossiping with a nosy neighbor, full of suspenseful pauses.
So, when it comes to conversational reading, punctuation is not written in stone..I mean on paper…..unless the client wants it.Tags: Blog
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This post was written by Simone Stevens