≡ Menu

Don’t Delete Medial Consonants

I’ve written several posts on plosive consonants in ending positions and in clusters.  But a colleague of mine recently asked about the dropping of medial consonants.  She said she hated the recent trend to say, “impor’ant,” instead of  “important.”  I agree with her on this so I thought I’d give you some ways to work on this problem.

First, if you omit these sounds you run a couple of risks.  You can sound not as smart as you are, and you might be difficult to understand.  Let’s say you omit the /t/ sound in “certainly.”  If you’re speaking fast it could come out as “surly.”

Now, I must tell you, as I told her, that fixing the problem of medial consonants is not as easy as some of the other consonant issues.  Ending consonants are super easy to fix.  Check out this post for some tips on that.  Consonant clusters are a bit more of a challenge, but there aren’t many of those in speech.  But almost every word has at least one medial consonants.  Granted not all of these cause problems, but certain words that we say often do call for these consonants to be distinct.  Here are a few:  county, country, important, center, winter, picture, painting.

Some of the words above can actually become different words when you drop the medial, plosive consonant.  For example, “winter” becomes “winner” and “center” becomes “sinner.”  I don’t think any football center wants to be called a sinner!

So how do you do the work to change these errors?  First, you have to be sure you know how to make a consonant plosive correctly.  I cover this in a blog post so click here to read about perfecting your cononant production.

Next, record yourself, and listen for any medial consonants that you might be dropping.  Or you can have a friend do this for you.

Finally, it works well to divide the word you’re working on into two different words for practice.  “Important,” for example, would be practiced first as “impor” “Tant.”  Repeat the word this way many times each day exaggerating the /t/ sound.  After a few days of this practice, merge the words together, and see if you can still keep the /t/ in the word.  If you can, repeat the process of saying the word over and over for a several days until it sounds natural.  At first it won’t, but don’t despair.  If you keep up this practice, your medial consonants will stop being stumbling blocks.  Lots of practice with this pays off.

There is lots more information about articulation problems in the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK.  Download it instantly by clicking here.


Tools to Correct Your Pronunciations

Want to tank your career as a broadcaster or voiceover artist?  One of the quickest ways to lose credibility with your listeners, producers, or anyone who hires you to do voiceover work is to mispronounce a word.  This is especially true of names of cities, streets, products, and people.

And we all know it happens all too often.  I have had to correct more than one client here in the D.C. area when they pronounced this street name, “Grosvenor,” incorrectly.  It is pronounced “Grove-ner” and not “Grows-ven-or.”  Broadcasters new to the city always get it wrong!

So how do you avoid these mistakes?  For reporters or anchors, I suggest you start a practice list of difficult words as soon as you move to a new market.  Ask someone local to pronounce a difficult word for you and record it.

The same applies if you get a script to read for a voiceover assignment.  Don’t guess!  Ask or go to a source to get the correct pronunciation!  Trying to wing it will sound much worse than pausing to correct it before you read.

For general words that might present a challenge, I love the Apple app, (How to) Pronounce. It’s an easy way to quickly check words. Be sure to change the voice to American English, though, because the default seems to be British. In addition, this app allows you to hear words pronounced in numerous other languages.

There are also many on-line dictionaries that now have audio pronunciations of words.  Check this one out Dictionary.com

For names and places in the news, The Voice of America offers VOA’s Pro*nounce  where you can hear native speakers saying 7000 words and names in the news.

For medical terms, go to the Merck website, where you will hear pronouncers for lots of medical terms.

Tell me where you go to find correct pronunciations?  Leave a comment below, and we’ll share our sources.

And you’ll find a list of Frequently Mispronounced Words in the Appendix of the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK. 

Get it instantly by ordering on the Voice Book page.Book Cover for Broadcast Voice Handbook



Three Ways to Slow Down This Month

As a broadcaster or voiceover artist, often your life has to be lived at a “pitch near madness,”* in order to get everything done.  But if you want to enjoy the holidays and continue to do your job well, how about trying some ways to slow down during December.

First, don’t even think of giving up exercise, because it’s one of the best stress-busters.  If you’re not doing it, now is a good time to start.  But instead of running or going crazy on the elliptical machine, take a walk outside.  That way you combine exercise and nature, both of which cut stress.  And you might want to use your walking time to think about gifts to purchase or people you you would like to see over the holidays.  We actually think more creatively when exercising.

Next, make the first few minutes of your day (or longer if possible) free of digital devices or newspapers.  Just by looking at the news first thing in the morning, you are depriving your mind of any relaxed time.  Even a quick look at the news or emails puts our minds on stress alert.  And if the mind is stressed, the body is too.  So take a break each morning.  During this time you might try doing the third thing explained below.

Breathe!  It sounds simple, but just concentrating on your inhalation and exhalation for a couple of minutes can have a positive effect on your entire body.  And you can use this all during the day.  I find it especially helpful when I fall into catastrophic thinking.  There’s sure to be lots of that this month with travel, gift buying, family visiting, and other holiday pressures.  So make it a habit to focus on your breathing several times a day.  Repeating “Breathing in” on the inhalation and “Breathing out,” on the exhalation works for me.  If you want to learn more about breathing, watch my video by clicking here.

Slowing down this month may seem a contradiction, but if you try it, I think you’ll find it not only makes for a better month, but it helps you keep going at work!

For more on stress relief, check out my book by clicking here.  At just $4.99, this book makes a great, inexpensive gift for anyone.

*Taken from a poem by Richard Eberhard by the same name.






Interview Like a Pro

“Never pass up an opportunity to shut up!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given this advice  (perhaps in kinder words) to anchors and reporters when helping them improve their interviewing skills.  This advice can apply to voiceover folks as well when you’re in any kind of situation where you’re trying to get information, say from an author or PR agent.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in an interview is to try and show off how much you know in your questions. The interview is not about you. It’s about your interviewee. Put your ego aside and ask direct, simple questions that will get the best answer out of your interviewee.

And what should you do once you’ve asked this direct question? You got it, shut up!

Another piece of advice I often give about a good interview is that the questions should be like jabs in boxing. They should be forceful and direct and hit the exact spot so they will get the best answer from the other person.

Have you ever noticed how a Q & A is printed online or in a magazine?  The questions are in bold and the answers are in regular type.  Plus, the questions are usually short.  Remembering this can help you avoid another big mistake that many broadcasters make when doing interviews, which is trailing off at the end of a question.

And there’s another reason why printed questions are in bold.  They need to be read, that’s why!  They offer the skeleton structure for the Q & A.

If your questions are weak and your voice trails off at the ends of sentences, they aren’t doing their job of holding the interview together.  In a printed Q & A do you see the ink getting paler and paler as it comes to the end of the question?  Then don’t let your voice do that.  I tell my clients to make the last word of their question as strong as the first word.

So next time you’re doing a Q & A, keep the questions simple and direct, and make sure your voice is strong as you ask your questions.  That’s the winning combination!


Speak From Your Diaphragm!

By Dara W. Allen, M.S., CCC-SLP

Have you ever been told to “speak from your diaphragm”?  Most broadcasters and voiceover artists have heard this piece of advice many times over, yet few of us really understand what it means.

In truth, we do not speak from our diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that rests high in the ribcage.  When you inhale, the diaphragm descends, putting pressure on the organs in the abdominal cavity, and they are pushed down and out to the front, sides and back of your body.  When the diaphragm goes down, it draws air in through your vocal cords into your lungs.  There should be an expansion of your ribcage to the front, sides and back.  There should never be any expansion in the upper chest, shoulders or neck area during inhalation.  This process is called abdominal/thoracic breathing.

The great thing about utilizing abdominal/thoracic breathing is you will feel better physically, and you will sound better!!  Breathing in this manner causes the larynx to relax.  When the larynx is relaxed, you will get a fuller and richer sounding voice, and what broadcaster or voiceover artist does not want that?

So how do you do this?

Allow your lips and teeth to part slightly.  You do not have to suck in the air or take in a loud breath. Imagine if you were underwater and you opened up your mouth; the water would just flow in. It is the same on land; open your mouth and allow your tummy to release and the air will flow in. Imagining that the tummy is releasing, melting or softening when need a breath allows the diaphragm to descend.

“But I don’t want to look fat!”  Boy, do I hear that all of the time!

Many people spend a good amount of energy “sucking in the gut” so they look good.  But, hear this!  You cannot take in a full breath if you are holding in your stomach!

Yet, you also do not want to push your stomach out!!  Pushing your stomach out will only create more tension and have a negative effect on the voice.  It is a release of the tummy that allows you to take in a full efficient breath.

I promise that releasing your tummy to breathe will not make you look bigger than you are!  Breathing in this manner will actually help your tummy muscles! (To see Dr. Utterback demonstrating breathing techniques, chect out this video.)

One more thing…

Learn to relax the upper and middle chest. This does not mean that you allow your chest to collapse! On the contrary, good posture is crucial, but you do not want to be stiff or rigid.  If you sense tension in your upper or middle chest, imagine letting it go from the inside out.  Talk to it, move it, or touch it, trying to encourage a release of the muscles when you breathe in AND when you are talking.

Tension in the abdomen and chest areas prevents us from breathing efficiently. Do not be fooled into thinking that you do not have tension in these areas – most of us do! The trick is to become conscious of it and then let it go.

Happy Breathing!!


DARA WHITEHEAD-ALLEN, M.S., CCC-SLP helps professionals in the radio and television news industry find, free and develop their best voice. She works with clients from all over the United States and the major network affiliates, including NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, The Weather Channel, and AccuWeather. In addition to her work with broadcasters, Dara is owner of the Austin Voice Institute, where she offers services related to the management of voice and speech disorders, as well as presentation coaching. Dara is available for individual and group sessions in person, or via SKYPE. She can be reached at dara@broadcastvoicecoach.com.  Find her website at: https://www.austinvoiceinstitute.com/services/broadcast-voice-coaching/




Three Ways to Spice Up Your Vocal Delivery

One of the hardest parts of voicing is to give stock or repeated phrases some spice to make them sound conversational.  Whether it’s a sign off at the end of a broadcast or a toss, these phrases are a constant challenge for reporters and anchors.

For voiceover artists it might be a repeated phrase in an audio book recording.  If you say these phrases exactly the same way each time, they become stale and uninteresting.  Worse, if you voice these exactly the same each time, they can become a bore for you and the listener.

So how do you avoid this pitfall?

First, for your sign off or tosses, take out a piece of paper or your phone and jot down as many ways of saying this phrase as you can think of.  Let’s say it’s a toss to the weatherperson.  You might say, “And here’s Rob with the weather,” but that’s not very interesting.

To give it freshness every time, you could jot down some options like these:

“So when’s the sun coming back, Rob?”

“What’s with this rain slated for the weekend?”

“It’s a beautiful day out there, Rob!”

Any of these works better than a boring toss.

If it’s a repeated phrase in an audio book, you can consider stressing different words with volume or inflection each time.  Let’s say the phrase is, “She knew she’d die from fright.” The first time you say that sentence stress, “die,” and the next time, “fright.” Vary the stress to keep the sentence from getting too boring.

And a third approach for either broadcasters or voiceover people is to employ the idea of talking to a person.  If you think about how you say hello to a friend on the phone, you’ll realize it’s always a bit different.  That’s because you’re picturing your friend when you say it.  Here’s a link to my post on PREP that explains this approach in more detail.

The biggest mistake you can make is to not recognize the repeated phrases in your copy and make them robotic.  Instead, try using one of the 3 options above.  You’ll sound more interesting and relate to your listener more effectively.

If you don’t have the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK, download it now to read more about how to spice up your delivery!


Preparation Is The Key To Vocal Success

Lots of people have approached me over the years saying they’d love to quit their jobs and become voiceover artists because everyone tells them they have great voices. Well, if you’re reading this blog, you probably know that it takes lots more than a great voice to be a success in voiceover work or broadcasting.

One of the things it takes is the commitment to keep your voice in great shape so it continues working well for you every time you approach a microphone. Daily preparation is essential for a long career in the business of voicing.

Here are some of the quick, daily preparation techniques I’ve taught all my clients over the years.

First, something simple like yawning has been used for centuries as a technique to relax the throat and improve the voice.  Go ahead.  Try it.  Yawn like you do when you’re so tired you can’t keep your eyes open.  Can you feel that your neck and throat seem less tense?  A good yawn relaxes the larynx (voice box) and throat and also promotes deep breathing.  In addition, it forces you to open your mouth widely, which can improve your resonance.  All of these things will make you sound better.

And you can continue this open mouth feeling by using this simple exercise every time you get ready to voice:

Put one hand on your abdominal area just below your waistband.  Now take a deep inhalation, pushing your hand out as you inhale.  Sustain these three vowel sounds at a conversational volume for as long as you can as you exhale:

“ah” as in spa (open our mouth as widely as you comfortably can)

“awe” as in caw (pull your lips forward)

“e” as in see (smile widely)

Repeat these sounds in order for 30 seconds stretching your mouth in the described way.

And finally, you need to warm up your tongue. Begin by exaggerating the plosive sounds (t, d, k, g, p, b) in the phrases below.  Really blast the air out on the plosives.  Exaggerating will warm up your articulators most effectively.  Repeat these warm-up phrases several times before voicing.

  • Pat sat flat.
  • Heat the meat.
  • Ted had lead.
  • Bed spread
  • Pop the top.
  • Deep sleep
  • Rob will sob.
  • Grab a crab.
  • Kink the link.
  • Took a look.
  • Snug as a bug.
  • Big pig.

If you’d like to learn more easy ways to warm up your voice and keep it in the best shape possible, download my ebook, the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK. Click on this title, and you can download it instantly!Book Cover for Broadcast Voice Handbook



10 Tips to Stop Frying Your Voice This Summer

Honeymoon, Day 4Summer can be hard on your voice and your body with the heat and humidity.  You can sound parched and look wilted on camera.  If you want to sound great and look polished, try these ten tips.  I’ve provided links to some of my other blog posts if you want to read more, but here’s a list for a quick reminder:

1.  Keep your vocal tract moist by drinking half your body weight in ounces of decaffeinated, nonalcoholic fluid a day (for more on fluid intake check out this post).

2.  If you have allergies or get a summer cold, limit throat clearing and coughing.  Did you read this post on the dangers of coughing?

3.  Be careful not to yell in noisy environments such as outdoor sporting events or clubs.  Yelling can permanently harm your voice.

4.  Keep up an exercise program, but if you’re exercising outside and it’s hot, do it early in the morning or late in the evening.  Why exercise?  It helps develop good breathing, but it does much more.  Check this out.

5.  Get at least seven hours of sleep each night for good vocal energy.  That’s the minimum that doctors recommend.  Go for more when you can.  And remember that computers and tablets emit blue light that mimics sunlight and can keep you awake.  Dim them down at least an hour before bedtime.

6.  Ramp up your protein intake for better overall energy and great vocal energy.  This blog post explains why and how.

7.  Use a pitch that is comfortable and does not cause vocal fatigue.  If you get hoarse after a day of voicing, you may be using an unnatural pitch. (Check out this blog post to learn more about pitch.)  See a physician if hoarseness, pain, or odd sensations in the throat last for more than two weeks.  Take hoarseness seriously.

8.  Practice abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing to decrease tension in the laryngeal area. (Check my video or my book, BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK, if you’re unclear on what this type of breathing is like.)

9.  Use SPF 30 or higher sun cream every day and reapply it every few hours!  And if you’re outside much of the day, you can actually make your clothes sun proof with Rit Sun Guard.  It’s a washing powder that stays in through 20 washes and blocks more than 96% of harmful rays.  Doesn’t change the look or feel of your clothes.  I use it, and it’s great!

10.  And the most important tip of all:  Don’t smoke or expose yourself to the smoke of others.  Watch this video if you’re a smoker.  It might help you quit!

aaaaBSGCoverSMALL copy 2Want more tips like these?  Ck out Broadcaster’s Survival Guide.  It’s only $4.99 and loaded with voice and lifestyle tips!



Chill Out this Summer

Summer is supposed to be the most carefree time of year, but what if stress and worry spoil that? No one can do their best on-air work when they are feeling the pressures of the world. Here are some ways to find your happy place this summer.

First, identify your demons. You can’t clear the worries from your mind if you don’t know what’s got you stressed.

One way to do this is to write down what’s bothering you. It may sound simplistic, but writing it allows you to clearly identify what’s going on. Once you’ve identified your worries, you can set them aside more easily. This keeps your brain from multitasking like worrying and trying to do your on-air work at the same time.

Writing can also help you at the start of the day. A recent study at Michigan State University showed that students who wrote about their feelings for 8 minutes before a computer test scored higher than those who didn’t write. If you want to start the day laser focused, get those worries on paper early in the day.

But your writing doesn’t have to be as long as 8 minutes to be helpful, and it doesn’t have to be a tell-all journal. It can be as simple as jotting down a memo on your phone or on a napkin at Starbucks. No one is going to see this but you so make some notes and destroy them right after if you like. Just putting your feelings out there is enough.

And, of course, we all know that exercise helps drive away stress. One recent study showed that just 60 minutes a week of any kind of exercise has a significant effect on reducing depression. This large, 11-year study of 33,000 people was reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. It showed that the intensity of the exercise or how you break up the 60 minutes does not matter. You can take a 10-minute break to climb stairs or go for a short walk, for example. Do this 6 times in a week, and you’ve got your exercise in for the week.

If you’re not making time to exercise, you’re missing out on a real stress-buster. To read more on the benefits of exercise, check out this previous post of mine.

So this summer try writing down your feelings and getting at least 60 minutes of exercise a week so you can kick back and enjoy the summer ahead while doing your best work.

And if you haven’t gotten the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK, it makes great summer reading!

Click here to order and download it today!







Dr. Utterback’s Go-To Daily Vocal Warm-Ups

A journalism student asked me recently what my favorite vocal exercise was. That got me thinking about what exercises I would do just before voicing something. I came up with my Go-To Vocal Exercises that would be indispensible for me if I were on the air every day.

These exercises focus on releasing tension in the upper body and oral cavity. I’ve also included one to increase my heart rate slightly to wake up my brain so I’ll be sharp and ready to voice. Want to give them a try?

Let’s get started!

First, repeat the simple phrase, “You see Oz,” exaggerating the vowels. Purse your lips tightly for “You.” Do a big smile for “see.” And open your mouth widely for “Oz.” Repeat this phrase 5 or 6 times.

Now repeat the phrase, “Fat lazy cat,” 10 times exaggerating the explosion of air in the“t” sounds.

Next, make big circles with your elbows out to your sides. Exaggerate these by making them really big. Do these about 5 times in each direction. (As always with this and the following physical exercises, do them only within your comfort zone.  Don’t do them if they cause any pain.)

Once you’ve done those, raise your shoulders up toward your ears. Hold for a couple of seconds, and then let them completely relax. Do this 3 times.

Now reach up over your head with both arms and pretend you’re picking apples just out of reach. Again do this 6 times.

And finally, march in place like a marching bandleader. Bring your knees up and pump your arms. Do this until you are slightly out of breath.

These Go-To Vocal Exercises take less than 2 minutes to complete, but they have a big payoff. You will have less tension in your neck and upper body. You will be able to articulate more easily, and your brain will be sharper. Not bad for 2 minutes of your time!

There are lots more vocal exercises in the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK. You can download it instantly when you purchase it on my site.