How to effectively explain the pronunciation of tricky words

Pronunciation Tips When Words are a Challenge

The topic of “pronunciations” is always timely in my business, as it is a daily function of my job as a voice actor. Whether reading a script or simply needing the correct pronunciation of a name, it’s always best to get it right the first time by looking it up or asking for the correct pronunciation.,, AND (type in a name – it is sure to be pronounced somewhere on video) are great places to start. However, many proper names and local pronunciations will need a helping hand.

Phonetic spelling, or phonemic orthography, seems a language on it’s own and not something most of us know. And yet, when I occasionally ask for someone to type out the pronunciation of a word, I think THEY think I’m asking for that complicated break down. Have no fear! I can’t understand phonetic spelling either…

Tips for helping others pronounce words correctly:

  • #1 – Leave a voicemail with the correct pronunciation.  Leaving a voicemail allows the listener to play it back repeatedly. I’ve been known to ask clients to leave a message for me if they are unable to do the following:
  • #2 – Record a (rough) audio file and email the file.
  • #3 – Type out the pronunciation phonetically, capitalizing the emphasized syllables.

Idea #3 seems tricky to some people, but it’s not really. Simply break down the word(s) into syllables and sounds as you hear them. See the example on how I broke down the pronunciation of my name, “Natasha Marchewka”…

nah – TAH – shah mar – CHEF – kah (CHEF with “ch” , not “sh”)

Explaining the example:

>> I capitalized the syllables that need emphasis: TAH and CHEF

>> wrote out the phonetics, or sounds, as you might commonly hear them: 

nah – TAH – shah mar – CHEF – kah

>> and, added a note in parenthesis: (CHEF with “ch” , not “sh”)

The more info you can provide a voice actor, when you have regional words they might not know, the quicker the actor can turnaround your project. If they record it “incorrectly” (see this post on my opinion about that), it will slow down the workflow.


Here’s a 60 second video post I created on LinkedIn about this very topic.


Easy? Challenging? I’d like to know what you think… or if you have any more questions about how to relay a pronunciation the most effectively!

Post updated from October 2015

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Jane Copps

    Another great post, Natasha. I think some people aren’t familiar with phonetics and get intimidated by the word itself, let alone how to write it out. Your example is excellent and I’d enjoy more examples in future posts. Thanks.


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