Creating videos is no easy task, but a good video script can provide a solid foundation to make it easier. But before you start writing a video script, you should take time for some deep, creative thinking.
When reading this how-to guide, you may notice that the actual writing part comes in at step 6.
👉🏻 It’s because the first 5 steps all involve pre-planning a.k.a. 🧠work.
Yes, you are probably tempted to cut right to the chase, write the script, and film the video. But trust us, these 5 pre-writing steps are essential if you want your video to actually make sense.
Without further ado, here's our step-by-step guide to writing a video script.
Step 1. Identify your audience and goal
It's safe to assume you already have some idea of why and who you're making this video for.
However, it's important to narrow down the target audience and goal of the video project before you start writing a video script and filming.
Knowing your target audience will help you:
- choose the appropriate tone and voice of communication
- know what references and metaphors will be understood, and which won't
- identify the problem you can tackle/address/solve in your video
And narrowing down your goals will help you:
- identify what CTA (call-to-action) is relevant for the video and what you want the viewers to do after they watch the video
- identify the metrics with which to measure the success of the video
Step 2. Choose an appropriate video type
Distinct video types require different video scripts. So the next logical step is to pick the right video type for your goals and audience.
Here are some of the most popular video types:
A video marketing strategy can include many different types of videos: promo videos, landing page videos, product explainers, video case studies, video testimonials, video newsletters, and more.
An effective video script for a marketing video needs to strike the right balance between showcasing the value of the product to the viewer and not being too pushy in its attempt to sell.
A delicate balance, if you ask us. 🪶
Here's an example of a marketing video we created in Synthesia:
An explainer video is perfect for demonstrating the value of your product or service to your target audience.
An explainer video script needs to be short and catchy to keep your audience's attention without sounding sales-y.
How-to videos are essential for customer support teams.
A well-scripted video will demonstrate a solution to a pain point concisely, without going into great detail.
One of the most obvious examples of how-to videos are knowledge base videos, which are used to replace or add to long knowledge base articles.
Some other examples are customer onboarding videos and product training videos, which are perfect for helping users get started with your product.
See below an example of a how-to video for Slack that was also made in Synthesia:
Training videos follow completely different video script formats to marketing or how-to videos.
The goal of a training video is not to sell, but to educate and equip learners with knowledge. Therefore, the script will look a lot different.
Here's a cybersecurity training video example created in Synthesia STUDIO:
There is no one cookie-cutter YouTube video script template, because YouTube videos are so diverse.
Writing a script for a recipe video is a lot different to writing a video script for a documentary-style video with narration.
However, regardless of the video's format, it's important to have a clear structure and message that will engage your audience. Your video script should also be tailored to your target audience, keeping in mind their interests, demographics, and pain points.
Finally, when writing a YouTube video script, don't forget to keep your video's length in mind, as viewers' attention spans are generally shorter when watching online videos.
Unlike the other video types we've described above, interview videos cannot be fully scripted, since you don't know what answer you're going to get.
Naturally, an interview video script should only include specific questions for the interviewer, and maybe some visual cues for the placement of the camera.
Step 3. Pick a visual delivery method
Okay. You have a goal in mind and you've settled on the perfect video type.
Now it's time to decide what visuals you want to use to deliver your message:
- Talking head
- Screen recordings
- B-roll or stock footage
Why is that important?
Well, the narration and visuals in video content are intertwined, so the type of visual you choose to go for will determine how you write a video script.
If the main visual is a talking head, the narration has to be from a first-person perspective.
If the main visual is animation, write a script that follows a story.
Screen recordings? The script will have a more demonstrative tone or include step-by-step instructions.
B-roll or stock footage - visualize a concept or metaphor.
Step 4. Write a short brief
Start off by summarizing what you want to say in a short, 5-sentence-long brief.
This will enable you to narrow down your ideas and see how the information flows from one point to another.
With the rough outline complete, let's write a video script!
Step 5. Create your own video script template
There are a bunch of fancy and elaborate video script templates out there, but the reality is that unless you are a professional script writer or cinematographer, you won't be needing any of these.
(Otherwise, you wouldn't be googling 'how to write a video script' 😅)
Here's a free video script template idea that you can make yourself in two seconds.
All you need is a note-taking app like Google Docs, Notion, Notepad, or the good old pen and paper.
Create a table with two columns: one for visual elements, and one for audio elements. And that's your video script template done.
All you need to do in a video script is map out the visual and audio elements of the video scenes in sequence.
You really only need two columns for that - one for visuals, or what is being shown on screen, and the other for audio, which includes narration, music, and sound effects.
Step 6. Write, re-write, and re-write again...
Grab your new 'fancy' video script template and write a script.
When you're done with your first draft - discard it.
Not because we don't believe in your writing talents, but because the first draft is always a bit rusty. (That doesn't only apply to video scripts, but to any form of written communication - a blog post, news article, letter, etc.)
This is essentially the first time you're putting down your ideas on paper, and when you look at it in writing, you will notice a lot of things that need to be changed, like unnecessary words or a weak call-to-action.
And that's okay.
Keep re-writing the video script until you're happy with it. Fine-tune it until every word fits and sounds perfect.
Take a break and come back to it the next day with a fresh mind.
Step 7. Produce your video
If you or a production company is filming the video, make sure that your script is solid before the actual filming starts, or have an alternate script you can choose from.
Once the filming day is over, you can't go in and change your script in post-production.
If you're making an animated video online or using a text-to-video tool, you have a lot more flexibility when it comes to altering your script. You can make changes to the script as you make the video, and even go back in and change the actual video if you aren't happy with the results.
5 tips for writing better video scripts
The above 7-step guideline will enable you to approach writing a script in a structured way.
Once you've mastered the basic video script writing steps, there are 5 tips that can help you transform a good script into a great script.
Tip #1: Use a conversational tone
No matter the goal of your video, and no matter the type of video you choose, you always want to be understood by your viewers.
Don't write a script like you would a scholarly article. Instead, drop the fancy lingo and write as if you are having a conversation.
Tip #2: Use no more than 3-4 sentences in a scene
If you want to keep your viewer's attention glued to your video, you need to introduce variety and change up the video scenes fairly frequently.
So, a good rule of thumb is to write no more than 4 sentences for the voiceover/narration for an individual video scene. That way the scene won't drag on for too long before it switches to a new one.
Tip #3: Read the script aloud
Reading out loud for yourself might seem silly at first, but it helps to see the script in a new light.
What looks right on paper might sound strange when read out loud.
Use that tip to adjust the flow of words and sentences and replace words that are difficult to pronounce.
Reading out loud to an audience, like your colleague or friend, can also help bring in a fresh perspective and a second opinion.
Tip #4: Vary the visuals in your script
We touched on variety in tip #2, and visual variety follows the same principle - changing up the visuals will help people stay engaged while watching your videos.
When you're making notes on the visual elements in your video script, ensure you include a good mixture.
Here are the 4 most common visuals you can choose from:
A talking head is a person or two speaking directly into the camera or just off to the side. While most commonly used for a video interview, talking heads are also incredibly popular as YouTube videos (think vlogs, reaction videos, and the like).
B-roll is essentially supplementary footage of something other than the main subject of the video. B-roll is incredibly useful for showing context and providing visual interest to the voiceover in the background.
Use either your own or stock footage for the b-roll.
A screen recording is a perfect way to demonstrate a process or product on screen.
So if at any point in your video script you describe a step-by-step process, consider using screen recordings to supplement the voiceover with visuals.
Text on screen
Sometimes, to really make sure the message sticks, duplicate the narration with text on the screen.
This is particularly useful for quotes, testimonials, definitions, and video headlines at the very beginning.
Tip #5: Make the beginning memorable
Hook in your viewers right from the beginning using classic literary and public speaking techniques, like:
- asking a rhetorical, or thought-provoking question
- showing the end result at the start
- introducing the main character
Take your video content to the next level with a good script
A successful script can make all the difference in the end product.
We hope our guide on how to write a video script has left you feeling more informed and confident about writing a script for your next video project.
Ready to start shooting stunning videos?
Check out our guide on how to transform a script to video without using cameras, microphones, or editing software.