Pronunciation Tricks for On Hold Messages and IVR Prompts

Pronunciation Tricks for On Hold Messages man in suit speaking illustration

Ready to learn some pronunciation tricks for On Hold messages?

So you’ve done the hard part and written out exactly the voice message that you will need recorded. You’ve gotten your on hold messages or your IVR prompts worded precisely the way you want them, and now all that’s left to do is send the script out to a voice talent so they can provide you with the perfect professional-sounding final product.

But there’s one last step to consider, just to make sure that the audio is as precisely perfect as your wording.

That last step is reviewing your script to check for any names that might prove to be difficult for a voice talent to pronounce. When you work at a company or live in an area for long enough, the terminology used day in and day out becomes second-nature. But voice talents are scattered all across the country, and the globe, and they may not automatically know exactly the pronunciation that you intend.

For us folks in Massachusetts, we all know firsthand that the town of Gloucester is pronounced “GLAW-ster”. But no one outside of Massachusetts would ever guess that that’s how to say that name (where’d the ‘W’ come from?). That’s the kind of thing that needs to be specified in the script itself, rather than left up to a voice talent to figure out for themselves.

Along with locations, there are also product names, technical terms, and the names of people within a company that the IVR prompts will direct a caller to. Pronouncers are a huge help for the voice talent, especially global talents who have different rules of enunciation even if the letters are the same from language to language.

How a Message Sounds

The best way to communicate the correct way to pronounce a word within your voice messages scripts is to write out a phonetic representation, like you might find in a dictionary.

There are a few simple general practices to follow if you want to make sure your pronouncers are effective. For starters, always be specific about how you want vowels to be read. A long “e” (as in ‘taxi’) can be represented with ‘ee’ (as in ‘TAX-ee’), while a short ‘e’ can be represented with ‘eh’.

Consonants can also be tricky, as there are hard and soft versions of each letter. For example, note the difference between how ‘C’ sounds between “cigar” and “cash”. Again, these sorts of things may seem self-explanatory to a person who has spoken English their entire life, but we must often take a global perspective for our business and our customer base. A voice talent who does not speak English as a primary language but is trying to perform the name of your company will need clear instructions in order to achieve what you need.

Always Keep Your Meaning Clear

Lastly, always be sure to capitalize the syllable that will be stressed in a given word. We are almost unconscious to how much the stress within a word affects meaning, but it’s vitally important. Here’s an easy test: Try reversing the stress of common words and pay attention to how much your inflection alters it.

Take the word “hello”. Imagine if we greeted each other with, “HELL-oh” every time we saw one another? Doesn’t really convey what you want it to convey, right?

At Marketing Messages, we have tried to make this process as easy as possible by including a special extension where a customer can call in, read out the tricky word pronounced exactly how they want it to sound, and we can provide that audio directly to the voice talent before they voice your on hold messages or your IVR prompts.

As always, the goal is to get done as efficiently as possible to get the best professional product possible.