Best Practices for Writing Scripts for Narration

Normal 0 false false false oNotPromoteQF /> EN-US X-NONE X-NONE ontGrowAutofit /> Hi Folks,

Do any you know of any online sources with any best practices for writing scripts for narration for training modules?  If not, how about if we start our own discussion here and come up with some best practices?

Rachel

35 Replies
Dave Neuweiler

Aha! It being Friday afternoon, I'll toss a fun one in the kitty.

Just tell your writers to "avoid periphrasis."

"Periphrasis," you ask? Sounds like a pretty serious disease!

Noun -- use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter form of expression. (Or as Strunk & White would say, "omit needless words.")

Example: The college English teacher warned her students against padding their essays with periphrases solely to reach the required word count.

Happy Friday, everyone!

A @work

I always have to be very careful that my global courses don't sound like they come from Boston (or worse, southern Gardner-hey). So when writing my script, I try to avoid phrases that emphasis my accent (park the car (pahhk tha cahhh) vs stop the vehicle). That's not always possible, or the most natural wording, so I'll go through and mark up the script to highlight words I know I have problems with, like "to" (ta) and "for" (fah).

Jeanette Brooks

Ha, that is a great point, A! I know of a course developer here in Michigan who was doing a recycling course, and he mentioned something about recycling "pop cans" (as in, the containers used for soda). The course ended up being used in other regions of the U.S., where "pop" isn't a common term, and even though the learners figured out what the narrator meant, it was kind of a distraction. People ended up focusing more on that than they did on the content!

Barb Leon

Here is a first step when considering best practices for writing scripts for narration for training modules:

Although most of our online content is now created with voice-over, we still ask this question when we create a new course, "Will our audience all have speakers or headsets?"

If yes, then we can design the course with less text, more graphics, and more conversational voice-over.

If no, (maybe only half of our audience will have the use of speakers or a headset), then our course design will contain more text. As a result, the voice-over will match more closely (but NOT match) the written text. Why? Because it is much too hard to read the screen and listen to something entirely different. We do use transition voice-overs like, "Now that we understand the basics, let's move on to the details."

More and more people have sound and headsets available to them - and this is a good thing, so we can move forward with better training and better training retention.

Rachel Leigh

In the training I develop I always have the full script in the notes section in case any of my learners have hearing impairments.  If you think your content on the slide is too different from what the narration is communicating, I think one way to address that is to have more slides as your script/narration is not supposed to match verbatim any text you have on a slide.

Barb Leon said:

Here is a first step when considering best practices for writing scripts for narration for training modules:

Although most of our online content is now created with voice-over, we still ask this question when we create a new course, "Will our audience all have speakers or headsets?"

If yes, then we can design the course with less text, more graphics, and more conversational voice-over.

If no, (maybe only half of our audience will have the use of speakers or a headset), then our course design will contain more text. As a result, the voice-over will match more closely (but NOT match) the written text. Why? Because it is much too hard to read the screen and listen to something entirely different. We do use transition voice-overs like, "Now that we understand the basics, let's move on to the details."

More and more people have sound and headsets available to them - and this is a good thing, so we can move forward with better training and better training retention.

Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Lots of great tips here. Depending on my client's needs, I'm sometimes a "one-woman band" (as Amy Kesman Rossi said earlier). When writing I:

  • Write the objective(s) for the intended clip
  • Step through the sequence if it's a demonstration, and begin the draft based on these steps
  • Flesh it out and then refine it; I agree with others that less is more and really tightening it up is important. When I'm watching a screencast and the narrator (of course based on the writing) doesn't get to the point quickly, I turn it off.
  • Place comments/notes to myself in red for syncing or actions I want to take onscreen during the video recording (I record the audio separately).

For recording:

  • I use the document I prepared (above) and had saved as a draft. For example: Shortcutkeys_draft

For the client:

  • I remove all the red notes to myself and save it again if my client needs the clean script. For example: Shortcutkeys. I created a Screenr on how to clean this up by creating a macro in Microsoft Word. You can find it here: https://player.vimeo.com/video/149040710
Daniel Brigham

Heather Steckley said:

Two additional suggestions...

1. You have to visualize what's going to be on the screen when you write the script.  Boring narration tends to say too much about what's obvious on the screen.  For example, in a screen recording, you don't have to say "and then click OK" or overly explain something that is visually obvious.

Remember... the length of a video with audio is determined by the length of the narration.  You can only speak so many words so fast.  You need to think about not having to "say" everything with narration.... your visuals can communicate more than your narration.  For example, the narration could start out as "we help hospitals connect to many external organizations such as physicians offices, reference labs, radiology labs, and clinics".  That's a lot of words and takes about 10-12 sec to say.  Now you could change the audio to "we help hospitals connect to many external organizations" -- and on the screen show all the different locations in the visual.  Communicates the point in half the time.

2. Always read your script out loud when you review it.  People tend to write scripts like they do print.... like a white paper or online help system.  Both make very boring videos.  You should definitely listen to it out loud before paying someone to record it.

Very good point, how using on-screen text to supplement your VO narration. Allows you to be more efficient.