One of my favorite people in the world, and a VO2GoGo Pro member, Carol Herman, wrote me about a sometimes sticky issue: correcting the grammar in the scripts provided by our VO clients.
Here’s what she wrote.
You get copy. Sometimes it is obviously written by non-English speakers and has its own problems, but sometimes it just “needs editing;” the sort my HS English teacher would have done.
Ex: “They want to see what it does to their life.” (their lives.)
“…to the person that does it best.” (who does it best.)
What’s the policy here? Follow the copy religiously–even with glaring grammatical errors? FIX those errors and then add a note to the client, explaining that you’ve done so? (Do you risk sounding exactly like your English teacher, and it really is NOT your business to edit–OR educate?)
So. What’s the secret to handling client writing mistakes?
First off, I’m a stickler, personally, for being correct. I don’t want my clients to sound stupid on the air or on the phone or wherever my voice is going to be heard. And in both of the cases you offer, I’d probably voice it correctly, but NOT write them a note about it, letting THEM tell ME I missed a word when they listened back, and THEN having the conversation. But that’s your cases. Others can be different.
Advertising has had a long and illustrious history of playing with words and getting them wrong – on purpose.
A famous example is Apple’s positioning statement Think Different (versus the properly constructed Think Differently) – it just sounded better to the copywriters, and despite entire websites dedicated to the grammatical error in that slogan, Apple didn’t change it.
Here’s my rule of thumb: defend the success of your client’s campaign, but not at the expense of embarrassing the client.
As an example, I teach clients and students to watch for IVR copy that lists hours of operation from an opening time to a closing time as “Eastern/Central/Pacific Standard Time.” I drop the “Standard” (or “Daylight” if they use that) and write a gentle note explaining why I did it, like “…some nerd amongst your customer base is sure to point out that for six months out of the year, you’ll be technically wrong about your hours.”
I also make sure to correct copy that insists on spelling out URLs, when copywriters mistakenly use the word “backslash” (the “\” character) when they must use the word “slash” (the “/” character). And I don’t think a moment about offending the client by doing so.
Because a backslash used in a URL simply won’t work, and if the client wants to risk giving listeners or viewers a URL that won’t reach their product’s website if typed in to a browser verbatim, I’m going to help them not make that mistake. And I’ll be persistent about that, because it’s defending the success of their campaign.
Slight issues of grammar aren’t all that important to me if the conversational nature of the copy dictates to leave it alone. But if the copy is selling an intelligent product to intelligent people, I’ll probably help the client out and be gentle about informing them. I almost never mention it in auditions, because it’s not necessary. I’ll wait to get booked, and then diplomatically ask if they’re sure they want that wording.
Hope this helps.