How to Script a Video for Your E-Learning Content
Videos are an important component of your e-learning course. Here’s why you shouldn’t wing it.
A lot of online educators fall into one of two camps: Either they are comfortable writing content but the idea of standing in front of a camera intimidates them, or they dislike writing content and are hoping video tutorials will spare them an unpleasant task.
Well, I have mixed news for both these groups. First: You’re going to need to get used to writing video scripts. And second: while they’re a different skill set than a lot of other content writing, they’re also a lot easier for most people.
When creating video content for e-learning, scripts are simply too important a step to skip. They:
- Provide structure for the lessons. It’s important you cover all the right content, but you also need to get the pacing down.
- Cut down on awkward pauses and vocal hesitation sounds. Um’s and Uh’s sound unprofessional and can be annoying to the learner.
- Reduce the number of takes and post-production edits. Worried that writing a script will take too much time? Wait until you’re on your twentieth bad take.
- Help maintain consistency across your course content. Keep the tone and terms the same from video to video.
And that’s just a start! Scripts save a lot of time and can greatly improve the quality of your course content. But it’s easy for them to become wooden unless they’re written the right way. So, if you’ve ever wondered how to write a natural tutorial script, this post is for you.
1. Plan your content in the context of the full course.
Unless you’re doing a casual vlog (which, to be fair, you might be), you’re going to want to understand how each video fits into your overall course structure. There’s only so much you can wing before quality suffers and learners drop out.
Remember that your course isn’t appearing in a vacuum, but as part of a longer content series. Use this big-picture context to select what material is most important for each video. At this point, you are beginning to edit your video plan to make sure you cover all the bases without straying off topic too much.
2. Be concise and cut long, flourishing vocabulary words.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to write a script the way you wrote college term papers. Your job isn’t to impress anyone—it’s to educate. The more complex your sentence structures and vocabulary choices, the harder it will be for you to read the script aloud. You’ll find yourself tripping over your tongue, which will make it sound as though the long words you used don’t come naturally to you.
Instead, scrutinize your script for verbose phrases, repetition, and needless qualifiers. This will make you sound more confident as well as more knowledgeable.
3. Use active sentence constructions.
If you’ve ever taken a writing course, you’ve probably heard someone decry the use of the passive voice in writing. Passive voice is often overused, but that doesn’t make it a forbidden. In fact, it has some important uses that even its greatest detractors can’t deny.
However, it’s generally not good for videos, for a couple of the reasons touched on above: it’s tends to be more complex than active voice sentences, and it’s intentionally indirect.
If you aren’t sure what we mean by passive voice, compare these two sentences:
A) The lesson was learned by the students.
B) The students learned the lesson.
The first sentences is passive (and not a good one). It’s inverted the direct object and the verb to de-emphasize or obscure whatever is responsible for the action in the sentence. The classic example is, “mistakes were made.” Who made mistakes? It doesn’t say.
The second sentences is active, because it puts the doers of the verb in front. You’ll notice it requires fewer grammatical acrobatics, and is easier to understand.
Of course, there are times when you want to use passive voice, even in a video lesson. You’ll notice I used it earlier when I said “passive voice is often overused.” I wanted to avoid saying whowas overusing passive voice, because any number of people could be overusing it, and naming them is beside the point. Your job, in scriptwriting, isn’t to avoid ever using the passive voice, but to get better at identifying it and rephrasing if the active voice would be more appropriate.
4. Read your script aloud until it sounds conversational.
Wonder how you can tell if your script is too wordy or crammed full of passive constructions? Read it aloud. In fact, you should rehearse your script multiple times, and return to any areas that feel rough or unnatural to you. Practice your script until the words roll off your tongue. It should sound as though you are casually explaining something to an acquaintance at a networking event—not like you’re on a podium, declaiming in a faux-British accent.
5. If you’re using visuals, use thumbnails and storyboards to plan pacing and timing.
Finally, spare a thought for the visuals and storyboard of your script. Work carefully with your script to make it align with the thumbnails of your lesson. If certain slides or visuals are carefully timed, it will be more important than ever to ensure your script matches up with reality.
Scripts are a tool, not a crutch.
Finally, loosen up! Your script should feel comfortable to you, and ideally, you’ll know it so well you won’t have to read it word for word. In fact, doing so could be the very thing that causes you to sound so wooden in the first place.
As you practice reading it, you’ll gain a better feel for the words and the ideas behind them. If you need to go back and edit, or even rephrase during a shoot, trust that instinct. Shooting tutorial videos is one time when it’s OK to like the sound of your own voice.