More strategy for understanding Voice Over Scripts

There is no hard formula for gleaning keywords from voiceover copy.  There are too many writers in the world with too many creative ideas (hallelujah!) about how to present the information and so the presentation style will always be varied.  This leaves us scratching our heads each time we get to a script to try and understand what is being said, what is most important, and most importantly HOW it is being said.  That’s right – time and time again when I ask a student to tell me how a writer is presenting the information they go straight to telling me WHAT the information is – but I can see the WHAT – the what might be, for example, that there’s a quality coffee beverage on hand here in the case of this sentence:

SOMETIMES YOU JUST WANT A GREAT LATTE.

But the HOW is something else entirely.  The HOW falls into the category of these possibilities: sarcastic, warm, friendly, upbeat, mischievous, confident, and so on.  Here’s where the lack of formula gets challenging.  There was nothing about this sentence that was formulaic.  But – there are clues.  The sentence implies that the speaker already knows something about the listener by surmising that they might crave a latte.  This speaks to a sense of familiarity, that the only way the speaker could know this is if he or she knew the listener or has had this same craving themselves before.  Either one implies that sense of connection between speaker and listener.  It says, in other words, “I know something about you” or “we have something in common.”  This way of being has a SOUND that is unique, in the same way that sarcasm or sincerity has its own unique sound.  This is the HOW and it could very well be the thing that books you the job.  But it’s not addressing keywords.  The keywords in that sentence are simple – GREAT LATTE.  Some might say YOU, but whoever is listening knows that they are the “you” and what they really want to know is what’s in it for them?  Or what about them??  Some might say the WANT is important, but – want WHAT?  What here is of BENEFIT to the listener?  Yup, a GREAT LATTE.  It doesn’t mean the other words aren’t important, but if you have to choose carefully…..this latte speaks to the heart of the matter.  One tiny bit of “formula” for spotting keywords, at least in commercial copy, would therefore be to find the BENEFIT, or what’s on offer to begin with (product).  But one important thing to note is that yes the product is obviously important, but if you are the listener you don’t want a product name simply shouted at you – again, you want to know how it is going to enhance your life (what is the benefit to you?).  Hence the reason that GREAT is just as important here as LATTE.  The next bit of possible formula could be found by examining the beginning of the following sentence in that same script:

COME TO MCDONALDS FOR FREE LATTE FRIDAYS…..”

When looking for keywords you also want to make sure to look for the new information, to not repeat yourself so to speak.  The writer has so little time to convince the listener of something that communication needs to be tight and precise.  Meaning – you have already implied that a great latte is on offer, and here the new information, the new benefit, is that these lattes are FREE if you come in on FRIDAYS.  Perhaps one would argue that MCDONALDS get enhanced as well, since that is where you would find this deal.  If you come HERE, you get THIS.  Sure.  It works.  Just remember, less is more when it comes to keywords, lest you wind up enhancing every other word in each sentence and nothing really pops out as important at that point.  It all just feels shouted at that stage.  When in doubt, try it out.  Read it aloud with the words you deem important and hear how it sounds.  If it doesn’t “feel” right, it probably needs adjusting.  If you want to keep going on this path of analysis, check out the breakdown of another voiceover scipt here to increase your success in understanding.  You can also get in the mindset of understanding copy through an actual voice actor here in this article about Interpreting a Voiceover Script.  The work never ends, does it?

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