Video Scriptwriting: Making it Easy

The script is the heart of your video production. So what makes a good video script?

Concise, conversational and easy-to-read.

Video script writing is the exact opposite from technical writing or academic writing. Those forms of writing use complex sentences, ten-dollar words and are usually very wordy. That is NOT what you want with a video script.

First, keep in mind that a video script is meant to be read aloud. Viewers will HEAR it rather than READ it. Therein lies the major difference. It's called writing for the ear instead of writing for the eye.

On a practical level, it is also writing for your narrator. No narrator, not even the really good ones, can sound good stumbling through endless tongue twisters. Convoluted, run-on sentences are not only a nightmare to read; they are also hard for the audience to understand even if the narrator does manage to spit it out.

So forget everything you learned from those stodgy English teachers. (My best friend is an English teacher; that is not a criticism.) It's ok for video scripts to be full of sentence fragments because that is how people actually talk. If it makes sense when heard, then that is what you want. Just try reading an academic paper out loud. It would sound terrible and put everybody to sleep.

Which brings me to a very important point. The single best way to evaluate a video script is to read it aloud.  Reading it out loud will make any error stick out like a sore thumb.

If possible, have someone listen to you as you read and see how well they understand what you are saying.    Do not worry about using short, choppy sentences if that is what SOUNDS good. Inflection, tone of voice and pacing will have a lot to do with how well the script is understood and those things do not come through on paper.

Back when I taught TV production, I told my high school students to pretend they were speaking to a friend. If you wanted to tell a friend this story, what would you say? Write that down. Then, go back and modify it. Cut out the fat. Make sure the meat is prominent. Make sure the words you have chosen are descriptive, colorful, yet easily pronounced and understood.

Good writing is usually a process of rewriting. No one writes a masterpiece on their first draft. The first draft is just a starting point. Go back over it, multiple times if necessary, and make changes as you go.

Taking this approach actually makes writing easier because it takes the pressure off. If you are sitting there starring at a blank screen, thinking you have to come up with something elegant and brilliant, chances are your brain will lock up. If, on the other hand, you know you are going to improve it later, you will feel comfortable just getting down the gist of what you want to say.

Video script writing is a style unto itself. Remember too that whatever video images you use also convey meaning. Ideally, the video and the spoken narration work in tandem. So if your narrator say, "Political leaders spoke to the public," and you show a hot air balloon deflating, then you have added considerable meaning without relying on words. That's one of the things that makes video production so much fun! I shouldn't make so much fun of politicians. On second thought, yes I should!

Thanks for reading.
Lorraine Grula


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