To script doctor or not to script doctor

As a voiceover professional, you need to have sharp writing skills as well. You should be able to tell when a script can be quickly tweaked to improve understanding and readability. There are times when major surgery is required, but many times a script can be reviewed and improved fairly easily.

This is a service you should be able to provide. You can (and should) charge for script doctoring – especially if it takes more than a half hour of your time. As we gain customers around the world, more scripts are written by non-native speakers for native speakers. Many times, these scripts will require some attention in order for them to actually communicate with their intended audiences.

For example, I received a script recently that referenced a process that would take a fairly short period of time to complete by saying that the worker could take a “sanitary break” during the process. After confirming that this would be for a native American English speaking audience, I suggested different wording.

Additionally, use your understanding of the different types of scripts – it is no longer a linear world. If you have been given a script that allows the viewer to watch segments in any order – or even omitting segments that are not of interest – be mindful of assumed linear continuity. These segments should be able to stand on their own.

But you also need to know when your input is going to be welcomed. This is a delicate balance and sometimes you just don’t know how your input will be welcomed. Some writers are married to every word. Some scripts have been through 20 approval cycles and the words need to be said exactly as written. Some scripts have complex disjointed sentences driven by legal issues. So do tread carefully if you are faced with a script that is just not “reading” right to your voiceover ears.

Read the script aloud as soon as you get it – a glance may help you establish a word count, but unless you verbalize it, your eyes may not pick up on the issues. This will help you in that initial quoting stage. If you get the go-ahead on a project at a specific rate and then find out that the script needs doctoring, you are faced with doing it as part of the original quote, or reading it the way it was written.

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