We’ve all been through years of English classes, and we’ve all written countless essays. At some point or another, we might have even written something genuinely good, something with all the things: hook, line, and sinker. Somewhere inside each of us there’s a misfit scribbler waiting to metamorphosize into a full-fledged novelist.
At least, that’s what our ego secretly hopes. The fact is, most people have no idea how to write because English class never taught them anything substantial about writing. There are rules. Lots of them. And it goes without saying that you need to know the rules before you can break them.
So, before you decide to write your video script yourself, here are 5 generally accepted rules for writing video scripts (don’t believe me? Google it!). Read them, memorize them – follow them.
KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
Also known as “keep it short and sweet.” Conciseness is the number 1 rule of writing. It’s the reason why the dialogue in Scandal sounds silly when compared to the award-winning exchanges in Mad Men.
Human speech isn’t the same as written speech. A video script is a diologue or a monologue. It shouldn’t read like an essay. Write as if you’re speaking directly to your viewer. Engage them with conversation, and make sure they can understand what you’re saying. Now’s not the time for acronyms and adjectives.
Set the Tone
Keep your audience and brand in mind, then make some executive decisions. Is the narrator going to be very professional? Is he going to enunciate clearly and use proper English or will he speak colloquially and engage your average American? Is it even going to be a “he”? Because, obviously, you’ll have to take the gender of the narrator into account when writing your script.
The last thing you want to do is write a generic, one-size-fits-all script. No one wants to read that kind of script, much less listen to it.
Rule number 2 can also be called “Your Viewer Is Smarter Than You Think.” Because it’s always true. The average consumer appreciates real talk and won’t appreciate formal marketing.
BLOT (Bottom Line on Top)
Video scripts tend to be short because attention spans are short. When someone is watching a video they are passively absorbing information, not actively participating in the learning experience. This is why most videos fall somewhere between the 30-second to 3-minute mark.
So front-load your message. Let everyone know exactly what you’re selling before you explain why they should buy it. Infomercials do the exact opposite, which is why they’re infomercials and no one respects them. “Big reveals” are sneaky. Viewers won’t appreciate that tactic unless your product is genuinely earth-shattering. So don’t disappoint them.
Follow Form (Hook, Thesis, Body, Close)
The bread and butter of content. From tweets to novels, every piece of marketing should follow this form. Why? Because it works, and has worked for thousands of years.
The hero’s journey archetype follows the same template. If Homer did it, you can, too.
Tell a [Personal] Story
Following form is important, but it’s all just hot air if you’re not telling a story.
The rules of storytelling read like a laundry list of Scrabble exceptions, so we won’t cover them here. The most important thing to remember is that every story has a beginning, middle, and end, and before you begin writing a story you need to ask yourself who, what, where, when, and why would anyone want to read this?
Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you wanted to make a video to attract new players to the sport of water polo (because you’ve lived in the YMCA your entire adult life). Which is more interesting: a video that shows a team practicing and explaining the rules, or a video that shows you playing water polo for the first time?
One is functional and familiar, the other personal, unexpected, and engaging.
This is why we recommend going with a professional scriptwriter (or at least an editor) for your first video script. These things aren’t written in a day. Scripts are the most important part of pre-production (arguably the most important part of your entire production), and they’re worth every second and every penny you spend on them.