Writing for voice

We just don’t write like we speak. You use slightly different words, and structure your sentences to be easy on the ear. If your sentences are long, or your language too complex, listeners struggle to keep up. Your message gets lost.


  • Read your script aloud often, to make sure it sounds natural when spoken.
  • Keep you sentences short.
  • Avoid brackets, dashes, colons and inverted commas or parentheses. They work on the page, but confuse the ear.

Two Examples

The first, with long sentences, lists, inverted commas, nested clauses and too many names and dates


The building was constructed in the 11th century by King Trivial II, an insignificant member of a forgotten royal family that ruled here from 964 to 1091, relying on strong links to the Highly Forgettable Dynasty in a place you’ve never heard about that is somewhere not far away. It has one roof, and (although you can only see one right now) three doors, as well as lots of lots of windows that were placed according the elaborate design of an architect who you should really care about, but don’t, because I’m not going to tell you why his work was interesting or important, even if that is frustrating and you’re not going appreciate the building without some explanation. What I will do is list all of the building’s other owners: Family C, Family A, Family P, Family R, Family B and Family E. Family C were “traitors” who were exiled from the city by King Trivial IV, who “gave” the building to Family A – local merchants with landholdings outside the city – that married into Family P.

The second, with short sentences, characterisation and detail


The building in front of you is almost 1,000 years old. Historians call it the mad King Trivial II’s only achievement. But like his father and his father’s father, King Trivial II was more interested in his harem and hunting dogs than the welfare of Imaginary City’s people. He doesn’t deserve all that much credit, because he just signed off on a budget as large as his ego.

No, this building is somebody else’s achievement. It started its long story in the imagination of Stone Mason, our most famous architect. He was the son a humble labourer and remained a hands-on builder all through his life. In fact, he chiselled many of the sculptures you can see on the front of the building himself.

King Trivial II was one of the last rulers the Highly Forgettable Dynasty inflicted on Imaginary City. The dynasty rose and fell on its links to Nearby Region, about 200km from here. When it fell, things got ugly. So ugly that the first people to live here, the noble Family C, were branded traitors and sent into exile.

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