This morning I was working with a client on a webinar for her company. One of my tasks is to massage the intro and closing scripts so that they are pleasing to the ear.
Sometimes people forget this simple truth: When I listen to what you are saying, it’s not the same as reading what you have written. Copy that looks fine on the page does not always sound right. Worse, it can be hard to understand.
Take a typical written passage, in this case from a town’s Economic Development site:
With easy access to North America’s third largest financial centre and a workforce armed with expert knowledge in a variety of fields, establishing your business in Townville will pay handsome dividends. Located at the epicentre of Canada’s Golden Horseshoe, Townville, a dynamic community of 150,000 residents, is well within reach of major U.S. capital markets and nearly seven million potential consumers in southern Ontario. Coupled with a favourable Canadian tax environment, Townville makes perfect business sense.
This is fairly well written, except for the dangling participle in the first sentence. Let’s now recast it for the spoken word:
Establishing your business in Townville will pay handsome dividends. Here’s why: Townville gives you easy access to North America’s third largest financial centre – Toronto – and a workforce with expert knowledge in a variety of fields. Located at the epicentre of Canada’s Golden Horseshoe, Townville is a dynamic community of 150,000 people. What’s more, the town is well within reach of major U.S. capital markets and nearly seven million potential consumers in southern Ontario. Add a favourable Canadian tax environment, and Townville makes perfect business sense.
Do you see the difference? Shorter sentences, simpler language, and a more direct tone.
Here are a few tips for writing for the ear, whether your end product is a script, speech or podcast:
- Use simple words, not complex ones. (Use rather than utilize.)
- Shorten your sentences. If it requires a semicolon, it’s probably too long.
- Round all numbers. Say nearly one million, not 989,320, unless there is a specific reason to use the exact figure.
- Use the active voice, not passive. (Our team ran the webinar, not The webinar was run by our team.)
- Use contractions. (Won’t rather than will not.)
What would you add to this list?