Lesson writing and voice-over script standards

Feb 04, 2014

So, I've had this question roaming around in my head for quite a while: How do I convince others on my team that writing for on-screen and voice-overs is not the same as writing, say a User's Guide, or a college essay?

I've tried doing the voice-overs following the 'scripts' as they have been written, but it's almost impossible at times. Sentences that stretch over three lines in a Word doc are not meant to be read aloud.

Another question that comes up after that first question is: Has anyone ever created a set of writing standards for e-learning (both for on-screen and voice-overs)?

I've visited Daniel Brigham's website and reviewed his Revising Bloated E-learning Prose (Articulate Storyline) lesson. I love this lesson, by the way, but still wonder if there are any actual 'standards' floating around out there?

I don't want to harp on this idea, but with the work that we are doing in our online college courses, I think we should have a set of standards for more than just how we design the Storyline lessons we place into those courses.

A little background: I'm an ID for an online career college.

Revising Bloated E-learning Prose (Articulate Storyline) - See more at: http://www.brighamcommunications.com/portfolio/#sthash.mVli4MFq.dpuf
8 Replies
john edelson

This is really really hard stuff. We create lesson plans, how to videos, intro videos, and content videos.  Some of them are informal and chatty, some are much more slick. The reason that I think it's hard is that with each type of video, there's a slightly different style. Not to mention huge differences in opinion on how much is too much.

With that said, I agree that writing should be tight with as little "unnecessary detail" as possible.  

Here's an example of a script that has a tightly worded VO: http://www.science4us.com/educational-model/

I'd agree that it's really hard to get people to understand how to be brief and to the point. My preferred way to teaching them is having them record it and play it back.

Jeff Kortenbosch

Hi Cathy,

Welcome to the Forum. Great question! Bruce has already provided a great tip with the standing up part. Smiling when recording voice-over actually helps too (go ahead and try).

However when it comes to standards I've not seen specific things outside this thread in the forum which Nicole highlighted in her Audio and Video compilation of various useful forum posts.

I do feel that creating short sentences works. Also stay away from 'corporate' talk. I prefer to narrate in a casual conversational way. 

Good luck!

Daniel Brigham

Hi, Cathy:

Glad you like the presentation on Revising Bloated Elearning Prose. There's another I did on Writing Voiceover Scripts.

In a nutshell (as you well know), concise is the way to go when you are writing for the ear. The listener can't go back and reread, like they can with prose. Two different, though of course related, mediums--I guess I should see media, but I'm not an academic any more. 

Here's a blog post by Connie Malamed, a person well-respected in these parts, on the Art of Writing Great Voiceover Scripts.

You might also bug Cammy Bean of Kineo, also well-respected. I know she's interested in this and is doing a prez on it for Learning Solutions in March. I'd be surprised if she didn't share some nuggets with you.

Hope that helps a bit, and welcome to the boards. --Daniel

Cathy  Edwards

Thank you all, for the warm welcomes!

I have to chuckle at myself...never in my wildest dreams did I think my undergrad training (from many, many years ago) would come in handy and now, I feel like I've come full circle. During my undegrad, I worked as a production assistant in the (what they called it back then) A/V department of a company. We created a ton of different types of videos (trainings), some were completely silly which followed a wildly elaborate story-telling type of script meant to motivate the sales force, and others were HR new employee hire types of videos, while others were product training. This was back in the day before computer edting (mid 1980s).

Anyhoo...I always think I know what I'm talking about, but for some reason, more often than not, I am met with push-back and strange looks when I suggest we include writing style in some sort of style guide (which we don't have...yet).

John Denner

This resource has been great for me. Not only does it talk a little about how to write the narrative it goes into great detail on how to format the actual document in a way that is easy for the talent to read and with less mistakes. i.e. font, acronyms, paragraphs spanning multiple pages, etc...


Sid Apolinario

I am glad that I am able to find this conversation. Thanks for all the links that you shared! I currently took a freelance job where they made me in charge of building the storyboard, and since my experience is more of development, and a little scriptwriting, it's not until this opportunity arrived that I searched for any scriptwrinting standards. What I previously do is create the script like I am providing step by step instructions to a customer. (because it's an elearning module for a software) But thanks to this, I will be able to gain more knowledge in scriptwriting. Thanks again.

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