Podcast Script Writing Guide General Guidelines Use a script to sound more focused, produced, and polished and to ensure that information is clear, concise, and in order. A script helps you retain full control of the content. A script should be invisible. When delivered, it shouldn‟t sound like a script. If it sounds like a script, your program won‟t sound spontaneous and won‟t sound friendly to your audience. The invisibility of your script depends on how it‟s written and how it‟s presented. Conversational writing needs to sound natural, not stilted and artificial. The best way to see if your copy sounds natural is to read it out loud. Do you have to stop for a breath in the middle of a sentence? The sentence is too long. Do you repeatedly stumble in your reading when you get to a certain point in your script? The idea or wording isn‟t clear. Write for the ear, not the eye. Text written for the eye can be more complex and still not lose the meaning because readers linger over the text until they figure out your meaning. Scripts written for the ear go by literally at the speed of sound. They have to be much simpler. Write clearly. Listeners only hear it once, unless they replay it. You can‟t count on them to do that, so your meaning has to be clear the first time your listeners hear it. Interview-style podcast – script the introduction and closing and outline the questions. Never script the answers because they can sound stilted when people read them. If necessary, use notes or bullet points to ensure nothing important gets left out. Build a connection. Audio products are a chance to create a bond with people as they listen. Invite them into your world by using inclusive language such as 'we' and 'our.' Pay attention to rhythm. Be careful about running too many sentences together that are all the same length. A bit of variety will hold a listener’s attention longer. Basic Script Elements OPENING – Added to all podcasts by the production team. May include sound-effects, a tag-line, a bumper, sound, short song or jingle. Be creative but don’t be too silly—especially if you are discussing a serious subject. INTRODUCTION – Welcome listeners to this podcast. Introduce speakers and any guests. Introduce topic/central question. May also give overview of how the podcast will be sequenced and may also include sounds, etc… but again…don’t overdo it. You will lose credibility and the respect of you audience. MAIN CONTENT – (Suggested Structure) o Overview of the central issue/question/controversy and why it is important. You may use a source or two to articulate the issue o Varying (other) perspectives and/or position on the issue—make sure to properly cite your source (“According to) o Your point/s of view and/or position on the issue. You support for your point of view, etc. ENDING – Traditional conclusion strategies: call to action, prediction, etc. Thank listeners for listening. Give resource information. Closing music, sounds etc. Additional Help Scripting Your Podcast When you write for audio, you are writing for the ear. When scripting your podcast, write it so that when it is read out loud, it sounds as if you are speaking naturally. I’ve noticed that a lot of people default to a “formal” style of writing when they write for audio. They use longer words than most people do in everyday conversation and throw in expressions that are stuffy and archaic. Avoid writing scripts that sound formal. Use language your audience uses every day in casual environments such as open-plan offices. Here are some very basic audio writing tips for scripting your podcast. Words for podcasts Choose simple words that are visual. Cut sounds better than reduce. For example, “cut the budget,” has more immediate impact and visual power than, “reduce the budget.” Make sure your words are easy for the ear to hear. Mono-syllables are great simply because they are quicker for your brain to process and generally more recognizable. When I talk about the value of monosyllables, I’m not suggesting you should “dumb down” your content so it is of a 12 year-old reading age. For example, “start” is far more effective than “commence”. It is shorter so quicker for the brain to process. And its consonants make it stronger and easier to hear. Avoid words you know your listener will not recognize and only use lengthy words if they sound better or save you using other words. When you choose words, opt for words that are concrete and specific. Avoid vague words like “it”. Instead, be descriptive and use the word that describes what “it” is. o For example, “we are planning to make it better this year.” What is “it”? A Christmas party, cake or fun run? Replace “it” with the object. Writing phrases for podcasts Construct short phrases that have only one clause. Resist the temptation to add subordinate clauses (sub-clauses). While Sub clauses work very well in written language, they slow down the auditory comprehension process. And you’re not writing to be read, but writing to be heard. The more complex your sentence, the longer it will take for your listener to understand what you have said. o How can you keep your sentences short if you’re used to writing for print? Look out for words such as “and” and “but”. Very often they can be replaced with a period and can start a new sentence. Write your phrases in the active voice. You’ll save words and each sentence will have more life. Phrases that seem perfectly clear on paper can often sound muffled when spoken. This can be because we run words together when we speak. Or in fact, the last sound of a word may be the same as the first sound of the next word. o For example, one newsreader presented a story saying, “Concern is rising over attacks on tourists.” When spoken, the last part can sound like, “a tax on tourists.” Try it out loud. Avoid using direction quotations. If you’re writing a script that makes reference to someone else’s comments or quotes, do not quote them word for word. A lot of beginners will write a script that goes something like: “Last week, the President said, ‘We will be reducing tax in order to…’” o If you read that sentence and start quoting the President, you’ll find you’ve become an actor. Leave that for Hollywood. o Instead, paraphrase the comments. It sounds far more natural for you to say, “Last week the president said the government will reduce tax in order to …” Script Mechanics Some people find it difficult to read their script. The way you lay your script out can make it easier to present. Here are some tips for script mechanics. Type your script in a serif font and lower case letters. Lower case letters are easier for your eye to read as eyes tend to recognize the word shapes. If you write your whole script in capitals, your eye needs to read each letter individually before you recognize the word. If you have a difficult word, type it all out in capitals because it will slow you down and help you read it more carefully. Include a wide margin so the column of your script is narrow. The wider your script column, the harder it is for your eye to find the next line. You don’t want this distraction to affect your delivery. Create a line space between lines of at least 1.5 or 2. This gives you space to underline words to highlight or draw lines that help you recognize phrases such as the slur mark used in music manuscripts. These guidelines are especially important if you are writing a script for someone else to read. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to read so they focus their attention on their delivery.