Using Highlighting and Spaces to Pronounce Challenging Words

Ever come to a complex, seemingly hard-to-say word, and the first pronunciation that comes to mind is “homina-homina-homina”?

Here’s how to make those words and phrases easy. Well, easier. Your ability to breeze authoritatively through tough copy will impress your clients, help enable you to offer medical or other technical VO narration, make you more money, and (or at least) make life more fun.

You can pronounce challenging passages if you know how.


Problematic passages break down into three categories:

  • Unfamiliar words
  • Words that are often mangled
  • Awkward phrases

How to pronounce unfamiliar words

First, you need to know the correct pronunciation. Take a minute to look up the pronunciation of any word you aren’t absolutely sure of.

Focus on the dictionary’s pronunciation guide. But IGNORE THE SPELLING, because you’re going to change that. Instead, you’ll do this:

  • Spell each syllable as something more straightforward.
  • Insert a few blank spaces between syllables.
  • Add a few blank spaces before and after the word.
  • Then highlight the word to “group” it as one.


Rather than suffer through this:

Neuroendocrine tumors are defined as those that produce biogenic amines. Next we’ll discuss a positive argyrophil and argentaffin stain.

Try this:

NER • oh • EN • duh • KRIN tumors are defined as those that produce bye • oh • GEN • ic uh • MEEENS Next we’ll discuss a positive are • JIE • reh • fill and are • JEN • tah • fin stain.

Now, isn’t that easier? With your own set of VO copy mark-up symbols, once you’ve gotten used to your phonetic translations, you’ll be able to read them smoothly.

Or, if you prefer, use the dictionary’s phonetic spelling:

Noo r-oh-en-duh-krin tumors are defined as those that produce bahy-oh-jen-ik uh-meens. Next we’ll discuss a positive är-jī’rə-fĭl or är-jěn’tə-fĭn stain

BUT beware of the overly complex pronunciation guides that some dictionaries show. The point of this tip is to make life easier for you, not more confusing.

Meanwhile …

How to pronounce words that are often mangled

Simple. Add hyphens between the syllables, and highlight the syllables that you tend to slur or skip over.

Example 1: “Particularly”

Most people say “Partic-ely.” That is, they slur the 3rd and 4th syllables. So change your script to look like this and focus only on those two syllables, like this: “Par-tic-ular-ly.”

Example 2: “Regularly”

Many people suffer through this word. They say “Regu-luh-ley.” That is, the “r” is missing in the third syllable. So instead, change your script to this: “Re-gu-lar-ly.” When you read, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to pronounce the word correctly.

How to produce awkward phrases

Challenging phrases include tongue-twisters, but also include phrases where a word is easily overlooked or misplaced. Start by figuring out which syllables trip you up. Then use the same technique as above: highlight them, and add a few spaces after them.

Example 1: “It‘s the One Day Super Sale at Sears, starting this Saturday at Seven!”

Sometimes the challenging sentence is truly an alliterative tongue-twister like this. Other times, it’s more of an eye-twister, even if relatively easy to say. Regardless, the problem is the same, and so is the cure. Re-write the script like this:

“It‘s the One Day Super Sale at Sears, starting this Saturday at Seven!”

Try reading it both ways. The latter is much easier. Just be careful not to stress the highlighted words as you read, unless you mean to.

Example 2:

The same technique works with classic tongue twisters! Want proof? You can probably now read this three times fast: Sally sells seashells by the seashore.

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