April 14, 2020

Our top tips on writing an engaging video script

Writing an engaging and effective video script isn't like copywriting - so we want to make it easy for you.

If you work as a copywriter, a video producer or someone who's going to be writing for video projects, it's important to know that not all types of writing are equal. You may be the best in the world at writing blogs or news articles, but that doesn't mean you can write a video script.

Corporate video requires you to develop a very specific set of skills that may feel formulaic if you're used to a more free-writing nature. As such, it might seem stiff or non-creative, but the challenge is actually to adhere to some of the guidelines you've been given regarding corporate voice and objectives and then really see how much you can still push the envelope in terms of creativity — giving people something they've never seen before.

Honestly, there's a lot to get used to, but once you have the skill down pat, it's great skill to have. You'll be a marketer's dream if you can produce video copy on to of your other skills. But you have to be versatile. You can't be grounded in one style and you can't just "wing it." Writing is a creative pursuit, but just like dancing, drawing or playing an instrument, the difference between just being able to make a few people clap and possessing true, refined talent is practice, practice, practice.

Of course, unlike musical instruments, dancing or drawing, it's harder to find a writing coach (trust us, they do exist), specifically one that specializes in the type of writing you want to do. We've been doing this for a long time, so here are some of our best tips on writing for video.

1. You have to get to know people.

People often think of writers as lone wolf types daydreaming away as they type away at a coffee shop table. And while this may help you get into a groove, you also have to do double-duty as a people-person. When you write corporate video copy, you will have to tailor your writing to a specific client. You'll probably have to spend some time getting to know them just as someone in a client-services role would. Understanding how a client sees themselves and how they want to be seen is something that you absolutely cannot proceed without.

2. Find the voice.

Once you've gotten to know someone and what they're going for, it's all about how you apply it. The voice of the writing isn't necessarily the style, it's literally about who is speaking and how they're speaking. You write differently for a host than you do for a voice-over than you do for on-screen copy. And even within those categories, the voice might be comedic, youthful, corporate or straightforward. It's all about establishing it early and being consistent.

3. Read it out loud.

This mostly applies if you're writing for a voice-over or host, not on-screen copy. But if you're not used to writing something that will only ever be read by people's eyes, you're going to have to get used to reading it out loud too. Some things look great in print, like short sentences. When there's a person speaking, it's a totally different thing. Writing the way you write print might come off sounding unnatural. So (with your client's wishes and voice in mind) take some time to read your work out loud every now and then and make sure it's going in the right direction.

4. Time is of the essence.

Can't say what you need to say in less time? You'll have to find a way to make it work. In most cases for clients, a longer video means a larger budget. You need to get to the point and focus on getting the facts first, adding the style later. A good rule of thumb when doing your word count is three words per second. Another thing to do is to read it in your head and read every word twice. Saying it out loud and timing yourself is a decent method, but only do it to cross-reference your other methods — because odds are, you're saying it too fast.

5. Accept criticism and move on. Fast.

There will be a lot of back-and-forth, no matter how amazing you think your script is. The key is to get this process as short as possible. Don't waste time arguing with clients ("But this was so clever!"). If you're truly confused or conflicted about a request, communicate that clearly in a non-combative way, but for the most part the biggest key is dropping the ego and swiftly hitting the "delete" key. Don't be so attached to your writing (it's not your child) that you can't accept notes. It's all about getting a script on someone's desk by the deadline.

Writing a video script can be a challenge. It's different. It's not unlike any other form of writing. You're going to have a learning curve, naturally, but put the ego aside and take these tips to heart. Trust us.