IVR scriptwriting tips

Common Errors to Avoid in IVR Scriptwriting 

Original Article “5 Grammatical Errors to Avoid In Your Audio Script Writing” by Megan Andriulli, published January 31, 2013 

When it comes to designing an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform for your business phone system, crafting an effective script is akin to laying the groundwork for a successful campaign. While the primary focus revolves around creating an exceptional auditory experience, the importance of meticulous scriptwriting cannot be overstated. A well-crafted IVR script serves as the blueprint for achieving the ultimate goal of navigating your callers through the phone system prompts as seamlessly as possible. Just as you wouldn’t embark on a road trip without a map, attempting to engage customers and convey your message effectively without a clear and well-thought-out script is akin to navigating without direction. 

Contrary to common misconception, writing for sound demands just as much attention to detail as writing for print. Though certain errors in audio scripts may appear inconsequential—because your audience won’t actually see them—they can significantly impact the clarity and effectiveness of your message. This is particularly true if the voice talent reading your script encounters confusion due to problematic writing. 

Let’s delve deeper into common issues that frequently arise in IVR script submissions and learn how to avoid them for seamless execution. 

The Crucial Role of Punctuation in IVR Scripts 

Punctuation may seem like a small detail in the grand scheme of IVR scriptwriting, but its significance is indispensable. Proper punctuation not only ensures clarity and coherence in your IVR navigation instructions but also plays a vital role in guiding voice talents through the script, ultimately shaping the recorded outcome. 

Without commas, periods, or question marks to delineate sentences and phrases, the flow of the script becomes disjointed and confusing for a voice talent to read, jeopardizing the quality of your recording. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to find unpunctuated verbiage in IVR script submissions such as this:  

“To reach our sales department please press one for existing orders press two if you’d like to inquire about our products press three if you’re calling about a return or exchange please press four for all other inquiries please hold and an operator will be with you shortly thank you for your patience.” 

Even the most seasoned voice talent might struggle to determine where one thought ends and another begins in such an example, leading to awkward pauses or misinterpretation of the intended message. And this lack of clarity can result in a recorded outcome that fails to effectively communicate with callers. 

Let’s take a look at how adding the proper punctuation and tightening up the language makes a world of difference in clarifying the above example for callers: 

“To reach our sales department, please press one. For existing orders, press two. For product inquiries, press three. If you’re calling about a return or exchange, press four. For all other inquiries, please hold and we will be with you shortly.” 

Clarifying the / Symbol in URLs 

Distinguishing between the “/” and “\” symbols may never cross one’s mind until they need to write out the words of a website address for their audio script. Consequently, it’s not uncommon to find references like this in IVR script submissions

“To hear our latest promotions, please 6 – or visit our website at “w w w dot X Y Z Company dot com backslash Offers.” 

Upon first looks, the sentence might seem perfectly fine. However, the symbol used in URLs to separate directories or paths is technically known as a forward slash (/), not a backslash (\). To avoid any confusion or misinterpretation, it’s advisable to refer to this symbol simply as a “slash” in your audio scriptwriting. This ensures consistency and accuracy in your communication, reducing the risk of ambiguity for both voice talents and your callers. 

Navigating Homophones, Possessives, and Plurals 

The English language is riddled with homophones, those sometimes-pesky words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. In IVR scriptwriting, homophones can sow confusion and hinder the clarity of the information being conveyed. 

One area where confusion often arises is with possessive pronouns and contractions. Consider the pair “your” and “you’re.” While “your” denotes possession (“Is this your order?”), “you’re” is a contraction of “you are” (“You’re our valued customer”). Moreover, confusing possessive nouns and plural nouns can add yet another layer of complexity, as in the case of “party’s” (possessive) and “parties” (plural). And amidst this confusion, the intermingling of singular and plural nouns (“person” vs. “persons”) can create further ambiguity.  

Here’s an example of how these various linguistic pitfalls can wreak havoc on an IVR prompt:  

“If you know the name or names of the person or persons your trying to reach or you know you’re parties extension press 3.” 

Such a convoluted sentence could cause even experienced voice talents to stumble over the errors, and worse yet, leave your callers scratching their heads when listening to the recorded outcome. So, let’s correct the homophone-related errors and simplify the sentence to provide callers with this clearer, more concise rendition:  

“If you know your party’s name or extension, press 3.”  

This adjustment eliminates the confusion surrounding homophones, possessives, and plurals and ensures that callers can easily navigate the IVR system to acquire the assistance they need as quickly as possible. 

Clarity in Choosing Menu Options 

Upon initial glance, it might be hard to detect a problem with this phrase commonly found in IVR script submissions:  

“Choose from one of the following options.”  

However, upon closer inspection, its ambiguity becomes apparent. If you’re instructing callers to make a selection from multiple options, they aren’t choosing from one option: they’re choosing one from several options. 

To eliminate confusion and streamline the call to action, instead opt for one of these alternatives: 

“Choose from the following options.” 

“Choose one of the following options.” 

These alternatives accurately convey the action customers are expected to take and eliminate any confusion surrounding the selection process. 

Accurate Time Zone References 

When providing time-related information in audio scripts, accuracy is paramount. However, there’s a common misconception surrounding the usage of time zones that can lead to confusion among callers. 

When mentioning their operating hours, many businesses include “Eastern Standard Time,” “Central Standard Time,” or “Pacific Standard Time” to denote their respective time zone in their IVR script. However, it’s important to recognize that “Standard Time” is only valid for half of the calendar year, while “Daylight Time” is valid for the other half. 

As a result, mentioning “Standard Time” in an IVR recording that’s played year-round is technically incorrect and could potentially confuse callers when heard during “Daylight Time.” To avoid such confusion, it’s advisable to use more general phrases such as “Eastern Time,” “Central Time,” or “Pacific Time” to denote time zones in IVR scriptwriting, instead of specifying the “Standard” or “Daylight” time periods. 

In conclusion, the careful crafting of an IVR script is not merely a matter of formality but a crucial component in ensuring effective communication with callers. From punctuation to homophones to time zone references, every aspect of scriptwriting plays a pivotal role in shaping the clarity and coherence of the recorded outcome. By addressing common pitfalls and adhering to best practices outlined in this guide, businesses can streamline their IVR systems, enhance caller experience, and ultimately achieve their communication objectives with precision and effectiveness.  

Key Takeaways 

  1. Importance of Script Clarity: Crafting a clear and concise IVR script is essential for effective communication with callers. Attention to detail in scriptwriting, including punctuation, word choice, and sentence structure, significantly impacts the clarity and coherence of the recorded outcome. 
  1. Punctuation Matters: Proper punctuation ensures the smooth flow of the script and guides voice talents through the recording process. Incorporating commas, periods, and question marks appropriately helps avoid confusion and enhances the caller experience. 
  1. Accuracy in Symbol Usage: When referencing URLs in IVR scripts, be careful not to refer to the “/” symbol as “backslash.” Technically the “/” is known as a “forward slash.” For the purposes of audio scriptwriting, it’s advisable to refer to the “/” symbol simply as “slash” to reduce ambiguity for both voice talents and callers. 
  1. Homophones and Grammatical Errors: Beware of homophones, possessives, and plurals that can cause confusion in IVR prompts. Addressing these linguistic pitfalls ensures clarity and comprehension for callers, minimizing the risk of misinterpretation. 
  1. Clear Call-to-Action: Provide clear instructions for callers to navigate menu options. Avoid ambiguous phrases like “Choose from one of the following options” and opt for straightforward language that streamlines the caller’s decision-making process. 
  1. Accurate Time Zone References: When mentioning time zones in IVR scripts, use general phrases like “Eastern Time,” “Central Time,” or “Pacific Time,” which apply throughout the entire year, encompassing both Standard and Daylight time periods. Accurate time zone references enhance caller understanding and prevent potential confusion. 


Why is attention to detail so important in IVR scriptwriting if customers don’t actually see my script? 

Attention to detail in IVR scriptwriting is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, the clarity and coherence of the script directly impact a caller’s experience. A well-crafted script ensures that callers can navigate the IVR system efficiently, reducing frustration and enhancing satisfaction. Secondly, voice talents rely on clear and accurate scripts to deliver prompts effectively. Errors or ambiguity in the script can lead to misinterpretation or awkward pauses during recordings, affecting the professionalism and effectiveness of the IVR system. Lastly, the script serves as a representation of your brand’s image and values. A polished script reflects positively on your organization’s commitment to excellence, leaving a lasting impression on callers. 

What are some common pitfalls to avoid in IVR scriptwriting?  

Common pitfalls include confusing homophones, ambiguous menu options, incorrect time zone references, and misuse of punctuation. Addressing these issues ensures that IVR prompts are clear, concise, and effective in communicating with callers. 

Why is proper punctuation important in IVR scripts?  

Proper punctuation ensures clarity and coherence in IVR navigation instructions, guiding voice talents through the script and shaping the recorded outcome. Without punctuation, the flow of the script becomes disjointed, leading to confusion for both voice talents and callers. 

Why shouldn’t I say “Eastern Standard Time” when referring to the operating hours in my IVR script? 

It’s advisable to avoid specifying “Standard Time” since that time period is only applicable for half of the year, while “Daylight Time” is valid for the other half. Using more general phrasing such as “Eastern Time,” “Central Time,” or “Pacific Time” to denote time zones provides more accurate information throughout the year, reducing confusion among callers. 

How can I improve the overall clarity of my IVR scripts?  

To improve clarity in your IVR script, focus on using clear and concise language, avoid complex sentence structures, and ensure proper punctuation. Additionally, consider testing your scripts with sample callers to identify any areas of confusion and make necessary revisions to ensure seamless navigation.