Words to Use When Directing Voice Talent

Here's the list Craig Jackman mentions in this month's Q It Up. He uses it to convey dramatic concepts to his talent. Craig said that you actually have to credit his predecessor, Jonathan Crowe, for coming up with the list. Jonathan is now the producer for the Creative Services department at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He explains why he developed this list: "I had been using the same kinds of words--"give me an up read, a medium read, a soft read"--and the announcers kept asking me to come up with other words to describe what I wanted from them. So I spent the better part of a day going through the Thesaurus looking for words that said the same thing, just so I could surprise the announcers. It got to be a lot of fun. Now instead of giving me a hard time for using the same words, they give me a hard time for always looking off the sheet." Here's the list that you can copy and use.


1. Forceful Hard Read: Firm, Solid, Colossal, Monstrous, Loud, Booming, Deafening, Dynamic, Mighty, Powerful, Emphatic, Stupendous, Mammoth, Heavy, Rugged, Grinding, Rocky, Thunderous, Resounding, Wake the Dead, Intense, Head Splitting, Ear Splitting, Penetrating, Bold, Brassy, Rough-and-Ready, Wild, Wild-and-Wooly, Uncouth, Gruff, Raw, Earthshaking, Bombastic, Rip-Roaring, Rowdy, Bizarre, Crazy, Mad.

2. Exciting Enthusiastic Read: Excited, All Fired Up, Zealous, Passionate, Spirited, Animated, Vivacious, Exuberant, Gushing, Light a Fire Under, Bubbling, Cheerful, Gusto, Up Beat, Red Hot, Lively, Exhilarating, Inspiring, Rousing, Energized, Set It on Fire, Thrilling, Electrifying, Spine-Tingling, Hair Raising, Rip-Roaring, Invigorating, Compelling, Soul-Stirring, Heart-Moving, Mind-Blowing, Tantalizing, Irresistible, Captivating, Provocative, Radiant.

3. Fresh Wholesome Effervescent Read: Garden-fresh, Novel, Energetic, Vigorous, Hearty, Lively, Bouncing, Vibrant, Bright, Shiny, Sparkling, Glistening, Brilliant, Clean, Glowing, Bubbling, Exuberant, Animated, Breathless, Happy.

4. Light Soft Read: Feather Light, Effortless, Simple, Easy-Going, Casual, Happy-go-lucky, Care-Free, Even, Sleek, Rippleless, Effortless, Refined, Eloquent, Delicate, Bouncy, Breezy, Low-Key, Natural, Subdued, Smarmy.

5. Romantic: Poetic, Whimsical, Flighty, Starry-eyed, Dreamy, Spicy, Idealistic, Philosophical, Sentimental, Sensitive, Tender, Emotional, Passionate, Mushy, Smooth, Silky, Velvety.

6. Warm Genuine Read: Cordial, Heartfelt, Sincere, Friendly, Natural, Folksy, Homespun, Honest, Unpretentious,

7. Serious Urgent Read: Earnest, No-Nonsense, Stern, Businesslike, Important, No-Laughing-Matter, Intense, Imperative, Driving, Demanding, Precise, Explicit, Positive, Grave, Severe, Solemn, Firm, Sincere, Honest, Genuine, Heavy, Challenging.

8. Mysterious Ominous Read: Shadowy, Cloudy, Nebulous, Vague, Mystifying, Strange, Weird, Bizarre, Ambiguous, Discreet, Noncommittal, Evasive, Shifty, Dark, Bewildering, Perplexing, Foreboding, Ill-fated, Threatening, Menacing, Sinister, Gloomy.

9. Tongue in Cheek Sarcastic Read: Sly, Cunning, Crafty, Mischievous, Playful, Mocking, Double-edged, Cynical, Teasing, Abrupt, Insulting, Denouncing, Abusive, Cruel, Mean, Brutal, Unkind, Uncharitable, Blunt, Testy, Touchy, Edgy, Ill-tempered, Ill-humored, Ill-natured, Hostile, Resentful, Indignant, Angry, Moody.


1. Flat: Colorless, Drab, Dull, Lifeless, Bland, Mediocre, Ordinary, Average, Run-of-the-mill, So-so, Fair, Modest, Ho-Hum, Callous, Cool, Cold, Unsympathetic, Insensitive, Unconcerned, Emotionless, Boring, Uninteresting, Gray, Indifferent, Stiff, Formal, Distant, Aloof, Un-compassionate.

2. Tight: Rigid, Tense, Crammed, Thick, Relax the Read, Unleash the Read, Loosen Up, Too Rushed, Take More Time.


1. Fantastic, Good: Admirable, Distinguished, Dignified, Grand, Top-notch, Magnificent, Glorious, Profound, Thundering, Marvelous, Extraordinary, Remarkable, Phenomenal, Surprising, Unprecedented, Fabulous, Fantastic, Far-out, Amazing, Astounding, Astonishing, Breathtaking, Stunning, Mind-boggling, Mind-blowing, Splendid, Terrific, Sensational, Exceptional, Superfine, Super-duper, First-class.

Comments (2)

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1. With a lot of talents, I’ve found the best initial direction is “here’s what I want you to be thinking”, or “try this attitude on this line”. Make them part of the creative process. Besides, I know what I want in terms of hard/soft/sweet/warm/etc. This way, the can surprise me with something better. (And if it isn’t better, I can still roll out the adjectives. And if the don’t work, line reads.)

2. Don’t ever be afraid to say “You gave me what I asked for. Thanks. But I guess it’s not what I want. Let’s try this....” Never blame the poor schlub in the booth. Their job is hard enough.

Jay Rose
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Two excellent suggestions I've not heard until now.

Jerry Vigil
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