DON’T FAX IT. FIX IT!
Those of us who get paid to put a voice to someone else’s words have to be able to read those words clearly. With today’s technology, we can have our voices recorded nearly anywhere in the world, in real time, from our home studios. But first, the script must be legible! Fortunately, many of us are able to ignore typos and other errata and still understand the message. Try reading the next paragraph to see how you do.
THI5 M3554G3 53RV35 TO PROV3 HOW OUR M1ND5 C4N DO 4M4Z1NG T1ING5! IMPT3551V3 TH1NG5! 1N TH3 B3GINN1NG 1T WA5 H4RD BUT NOW, ON TH15 LIN3 YOUR M1ND 15 R34F1NG 1T 4UTOM4Y1C4LLY W1THOUT 3V3N TH1NK1NG 4BOUT 1T. B3 PROUD! ONLY C34RT41N P3OPL3 C4N R34D TH15.
If you had little or no trouble reading it, you are among about 55% of the English-speaking population. Of course, it helps to have everything in caps, but the point is that we tend to auto-correct our reading on the fly. We cannot be giving 100% of our concentration to the message if we’re busy unscrambling typos and other errors in the process.
While email is the preferred means of script delivery today, sometimes the script arrives as a fax, or as a Pdf file, neither of which are editable text. And it’s frequently printed in the teeniest possible font… like about 6 points! Sometimes it’s a copy that has been copied several generations during the approval process, causing the crispness of the font to morph into a fuzzy sort of haze where letters used to be. Tiny, and fuzzy, and really tough to read. A printed price like “$29.95” starts to look like your ex’s phone number!
So here are some tips for scripts that will be either faxed or Pdf-ed. Please use at least a 12-point font; 14 or 16 is even better. Plus, if it’s transmitted by fax, the machine must be properly formatted to avoid automatically reducing the size of the document. Sometimes the size problem is on the receiving end, not the sending end. And, for goodness sake, give us double spacing and wide margins in which to take notes or write revisions!
Let me also address the subject of using all capital letters, rather than a mix of upper and lower case. For one thing, it’s like emails; all-caps is the printed equivalent of screaming! As the voices for your scripts, we have to be able to understand exactly what we’re saying. Knowing how to separate names and titles from the rest of the material is generally a function of capital letters and is vital for our ability to read something correctly.
We often have to read your script “cold,” without much time for preview (that long approval process, again), and we need all the clues we can get as to HOW to read it. We get that from the format. That means capital letters, correct punctuation, and a sense of how it will sound out loud, rather than if it precisely follows the textbook rules of grammar. These words are meant for ears, not eyes… the writing style is much different.
So here are some suggestions for scriptwriters: Assume that it may go through several generations of faxing before it gets to the talent. Make the font, spacing, and margins generous in size. Write it in the common use of both upper and lower case, as appropriate. And pay attention to your punctuation so that we can tell how you want it read. Above all, read it to yourself OUT LOUD before you decide it’s ready for recording. Your tongue may catch a problem you mind missed.
Sometimes those wonderfully constructed pieces of grammar sound like crap when said out loud! Oh, and one more suggestion: E-mail the script as a word processor document, not a Pdf, so we can change the font style and size to suit our own preferences. Some of us are getting older and need big fonts.
Following these simple suggestions could save you a fortune in studio rental and revisions.