Punctuation is Your Best Friend With IVR Writing

Allison Smith_RR_High Res 1_NOWCASTQuite often, I get Asterisk prompt orders through the Digium site in which the client has written something like: “….this phrase comes after ‘Please enter your..’ and before ‘followed by pound.'” It’s a lot of effort to explain where the prompt will occur — especially when I have such an amazingly simple remedy — and it has everything to do with the correct use of punctuation. At the risk of making this entry sound like an lost episode of “Schoolhouse Rock”,  the proper use of eclipses, commas, and periods will save you a lot of time, and ensure that you get the right inflection from your announcer.

Take the phrase: “your pin number”.  When it’s “free-floating” (no punctuation anywhere around it),

your pin number


one gets no idea of where you intend the prompt to be placed in the sequence. However, with eclipses at the beginning and a period at the end:

…your pin number.


…we know that a phrase has preceded it (such as “Please re-enter..”) and that this phrase caps off the sentence. Similarly:

Your pin number…


(Capitalized; eclipses at the end) tells us that its’ beginning a thought and will likely be followed by something like: “….is incorrect. Please re-enter your pin number.”

Along that same line, ellipses on either end:

…your pin number…

…is wedged into the middle of a sequence which might flow like: “Please enter…your pin number…followed by the pound sign.

It seems persnickety — but it will tell someone like myself — whose job it is to make these prompts concatenate as smoothly as possible — exactly where you need this phrase to fall into the sequence you intend. (And no, writing them all “neutral” — with no discernible beginning or ending — will not solve the problem…..it actually leads to the lifeless, android IVR automaton which everyone is — thankfully — moving away from.)

IVR writers: let me know if this was helpful! Any other tips you’ve found to be helpful in IVR phraseology? Let me know!

Next entry: I’ll be talking about Spanish, Hebrew, Somali,  even Tagalog — among the many languages I *don’t* speak — but that doesn’t stop me getting hired to voice prompts in them!


1 Comment »

  1. Maurice Said:

    Ali… you are hot… your voice is soooooo sexy…

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