Tips for Writing Great Scripts

At the core of nearly every video are the words to express a message. You have a limited time to make an impact — often less than 60 seconds — so the script must be crafted with precision and power. Regardless of the duration of your video, these recommendations will keep your message clear and focused.

1.) Define your run time, and work backwards.

As a starting point, we consider spoken narration or readable text to land at the rate of about 150 words per minute.This is a very general guideline, but it provides a reality check when your client wants you to fit an entire business plan into a three minute video. If you want a video to be three minutes long, your second draft of the script should be
about 450 words.

2.) Keep it simple. Cut the stuff you don’t need.

Just as in your home, clearing the clutter in your script is pure joy. Say what you want, but just once. If it’s shorter, it’s probably better. Every word and every sentence has to justify its existence. If it doesn’t, lose it.

3.) Know who you’re writing for, and have some style.

The narration is the voice of your client. The personality in that voice is the key to how well it resonates with a specific audience. Unless you’re video is to be played at a conference of English teachers, perfect grammar is not always required.

A little slang never hurt anybody, and sometimes, for a very specific audience, jargon is fine. For example, a presentation to shareholders might discuss positive trends in earnings, but a roomful of sales people will certainly get what it means to “do good numbers.”

4.) Start with good bait, hook your audience, and pull them to the end.

The first sentence needs to make your audience want to hear the second sentence. The end of every paragraph hasto push them to the next. The goal is to keep the audience curious about where your story is going.

This may not be easy in a corporate video for a buttoned up client, but all subjects benefit from scripts that flow logically and sentences that make transitions.

While starting strong is important to the larger structure of your script, when crafting individual lines…

5.) Endings are more important than beginnings.

The point you’re trying to make should usually be in what your English teacher called the predicate of the sentence. The ending is easier to remember. It’s the same place we find a rainbow’s pot of gold or the punchline of a joke.

A script is never written just once, and rarely by just one person. As you collaborate in shaping a message, these guidelines will help you improve your script and explain your edits to your clients.

About the Author
T.W. Li is the lead producer at Video Parachute, a Chicago video company specializing in results-oriented production and editing services. T.W. has been making video and film for more than 20 years, and he teaches Cinematography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This article appeared originally in Shoot It & Learn.

Tips for Writing Great Scripts