Scriptwriting Tips of the Trade

Video production is a visual medium, but more often than not, it starts with the written word. The script is the foundation a video is built on, so it’s always a good place to start. If you’re tasked, challenged, or motivated to write a video script, here are a few tips to help guide you.

Find your voice. Not the actual voiceover artist, but your brand voice. What tone should you use to deliver your message? Casual and conversational or serious and informational? Your tone and word choice should always match your brand.

Stand Out. Find a way. If your video can support an abstract conceptual approach, let the concept guide the scriptwriting. (Just make sure the tone, attitude, or style supports the information and doesn’t bury it.) If your message or brand requires a more straightforward, informative approach, you still need to find a way to stand out, and again, it should start with the writing. A solid creative approach can always turn a good script into a great video.

One is the loneliest number. You really need your video to resonate, so work hard to whittle the content down to one main message. You can support your message with 2 to 3 sub-messages, depending on the goal and the intended length of the video. But keep it lean, so viewers know what you mean.

Avoid the long and winding road. Don’t lead viewers down a path without directions. Structure your script so that you communicate or “tease” your main message up front, so viewers know what they’re about to hear. Then you can “unpack” your message in an orderly fashion and sum it up again at the end, reinforcing what they’ve just learned. In other words, follow these 3 easy steps:

  1. Tell viewers what you’re going to say.
  2. Say it.
  3. Tell them what you just told them.

Write for the ear, not for the page. Grammar and syntax are important, but with video scripts, you’re writing for the ear. You want language that rolls off the tongue and flows like a welcome conversation. That means avoiding stilted, overly formal language and sentence structure. Get your 5th grade English teacher out of your head and write with your viewer in mind.

Out loud and proud. Shorter is better. Always look for ways to edit your script to keep the total running time down. The best way to check the length is to time it while reading your script out loud, at a slow, reasonable pace. Timing it “in your head” doesn’t work – it takes time to actually wrap your tongue around every word.

Be talented. Tips don’t take the place of talent. If you have a way with words – go for it, but if you don’t, find people who do and work with them. Some people just have “it”, and that’s why they’re writers.

Great American writer Dorothy Parker one said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Writing isn’t easy. It’s equal parts talent, hard work, practice and patience. Scriptwriting is an important part of our creative process at MK3. Whether we’re writing a script from scratch or taking a client’s script and “punching it up”, we have award-winning creative directors and writers on staff, ready to write the right way.