What *Won’t* You Say?

It’s generally well known — by clients of mine whom I’ve worked with for awhile — that I am game to voice pretty much anything. In fact, I encourage offbeat, parody, and “joke” prompts — they provide a welcome respite from the run-of-the-mill (but highly necessary) IVR stock prompts. It’s especially fun when some of these “oddball” prompts are wedged in-between serious ones…in the midst of serious prompts might be a prompt which says: “Are you still listening?” I love it.

However, there are limits. I have backed off a few projects which brought up such feeling of discomfort, that I respectfully passed on them — I recently blogged about  politely declining to voice the call-girl’s information line (I’m still trying to figure out what the “Swedish Butterfly” is..) but here is a list of other areas in which I’m just not comfortable lending my voiceprint to:

1. Profanity

A well-placed expletive in humorous copy where it makes sense and carries some comic weight — no problem. An excessive amount of gratuitous potty-mouth — not interested in doing it.

2. Religious Content

Everyone’s personal beliefs and convictions are intimate and should be a private thing. I’m always taken a bit aback when I voice a very straightforward and business-like phone tree, and the last line says something like: “Thank you for calling and go forth with the Light of Jesus!” I struggle with the appropriateness of introducing that into a clearly business context. I also voice a large amount of conference intro prompts and many are from religious groups — not problematic if they simply wanted me to welcome their callers and instruct them on how to mute and unmute their line; instead I’m actually often asked to evangelize and quote scripture — almost like a warm-up act for the minister or church leader hosting the call. Let’s just say that I am religiously….neutral. Would prefer to not be put in the position of imparting rhetoric for which I have no strong feeling.

3. Slandering Groups

This seems pretty self-evident, but I found myself in the midst of a conference call a few years ago, with an ad agency in one city, and the client in another, and all I knew about the project was that they needed an extensive national auto-dialer recorded for a political bill they needed passed. My daydreams of what Louis Vuitton bag I was going to purchase with the windfall from this latest project was cruelly disrupted by the client talking about “making sure this gay marriage bill didn’t get passed!” Yep — I was smack in the middle of having committed myself to voicing a dialer that would drum up support for squashing the gay marriage bill —  a project that I absolutely could not voice with any conscience. After the call, I spoke with the ad agent and recused myself — to my detriment. Haven’t heard from them since.

4. You Using My Voice

This one surprises many people, but if copy is written in the first person: “Hi, this is Theresa, and welcome to my conference”, I will automatically change it to: “Hi, and welcome to Theresa’s conference.” Theresa is not me, and may not create the image that she has my voice. I’m totally OK with me being “cast” in a character: “Hi, this is Liz from Victoria’s Secret, and if you have a second, I’d like to follow up on your last purchase.” But I will not “impersonate” or “personify” a real person with my voice.

The list is pretty short. There’s a greater sense of appropriateness now than there used to be; years ago, I voiced a radio spot for a fast-food chain that was so sexist, that the male voice in the spot stopped the session and complained about the content to the ad agency, while I — all of 22 — stood mutely, secretly hoping he wouldn’t blow the job for both of us. Hopefully, we have a greater awareness of what’s kosher and what likely isn’t — and I do a better job of listening to that “no” voice which tells me to pass.ali-webcam1

Next post: I’m approached a lot by voice talent about how to get into voice-over in general, and into IVR voicing, specifically — next post, I’ll give some tips to those hoping to get started!



  1. Grant L Said:


    I’m loving your blog! Great insight into the nuts and bolts of your world. I’m very much looking for the installment on getting started in IVR. I have a home studio for sound cue creation and music production. I’m wondering home much I’ll have add to it to get started, and how much work there is out there for men. I seem to hear mostly women’s voices.

    Congratulations and a great blog and great career!


    • voicegal Said:

      Thank you, Grant! I’m really having a fun time with the blog (but secretly hope I don’t run out of material….!) IVR is definiitely an aspect of voice-over which is “female-heavy” — and this makes me think I shoiuld address the special challenges of men getting it….hmmm…another topic! Thanks!

  2. Gord Said:

    What about Moose and Squirrel? 😉

    • voicegal Said:

      Gord — did JR forward the Moose and Squirrel file to you? I recorded them for you guys! I tried to do my best “Natasha”…

      • Gord Said:

        Haha! Yes he did that was great!

  3. I love the “religious neutral” description. I’ve always struggled to define my own view and that nails it perfectly.

    As far as standards, thanks for having them. Most of our world is happy to do anything for money even if it goes against personal principles. Turning down “success” in the name of principles is the best measure of character.

    Now where do I get the moose and squirrel file?

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