It's interesting what we can get away with saying in regular conversation that you can't necessarily get away with when you're recording. If you're swallowing words, or phrases, it's going to be harder for your listener to understand what you're saying. It is definitely important that your read sound natural and conversational, so therefore, over articulation is not ideal either, so you want to find that middle ground.
There are certain words and phrases in voice over that every talent knows is a challenge to say. For example, www at the beginning of a website URL. Luckily, most businesses today will leave out the www all together in commercials, but not everyone! The trick is to not get tongue tied on the "www". Instead of saying "double you, double you, double you" try abbreviating it to "double ya, double ya, double ya". When you say it quickly the abbreviated version sounds correct and is much easier to pronounce!
I have a client who hires me to voice radio & television spots for air conditioning and heating systems. Every script is guaranteed to have the following line: "...THAT CAN HELP LOWER YOUR UTILITY BILL." Try saying that 3 times fast! Or even once clearly! It's phrases like that, where a talent not only needs to practice saying it over and over again, but they need to figure out tricks to help it flow more naturally. With that particular sentence, I take a tiny beat of a pause (barely noticeable) after "lower" and kind of bounce on the word "your" to springboard me to "utility". Breaking down the sentence like that, definitely helps it to flow better.
I took a survey among my voice over colleagues and found a few more trouble words and phrases that many talent struggle with in a script:
any word that ends in "er" - like Burger
"Please leave a message."
Those may all seem easy to read right now, but when you're behind the mic and you come across one of those words or phrases, don't be surprised if you have to do a couple takes to get it right!
In addition to practicing saying the particular sentence or phrase that is causing you problems, make sure that you're positive that you're pronouncing it correctly. Sometimes when words flow together in awkward sentences, you run the risk of mispronouncing something. A wonderful resource for pronunciation is http://www.thefreedictionary.com. Not only can you see the IPA (phonetic notation) of the word, but there is also an audio sample of the word as well.
One of the best ways to strengthen your tongue and cheeks to master articulation is by reading fun tongue twisters!! This exercise is great for loosening up your tongue, mouth and cheeks to make those 8,000 word recordings read just a little bit easier... Here are a few you can try!
Crisp crusts crackle crunchily.
We surely shall see the sun shine soon.
Twelve twins twirled twelve twigs.
Can you imagine an imaginary manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie?
Another articulation exercise, is what we call the "cork exercise" or "carrot exercise". We have devoted an entire article on this exercise that you can read here.
As you can see, there are a lot of fun ways to make articulation exciting! So grab your mic, pick a tongue twister and a wine cork and go for it!
Voice Talent, Producer, Coach and Such A Voice Operations Director