There is written and spoken language. The first is to be read, the latter listened to. Logical. Or not quite? Using the tips below you can write your copy as it needs to be spoken.
Writing for a spoken medium: you have the story just right, in your head. During your presentation to the client you relate it perfectly, everybody is happy. Time to write, get into the studio, put the voice-over to work…then it happens. The voice-over talks and you think, “What did they just say?” Where did it all go wrong? Often it’s written language creeping into a script intended to be spoken aloud.
1. Short and Clear
Keep sentences short and work with simple vocabulary. And I mean very short. Sentences with twelve words are already on the long side. 8 words a sentence, max, will work much better. This is the way to get those punchy sentences that are picked up easily by the listener.
There’s an enormous difference between this and written language, where sentences of 20-30 words are perfectly fine. What’s wrong with long sentences you ask? Simple: there’s a big chance that 28 words in, the listener can’t remember what you said at the start of your sentence.
Take a radio commercial as example. There’s no rewind button so the moment the listener loses the thread of the story is the moment you lose them. Make sure the sentences in your script are easy to follow and use words that are easily understood.
2. Think about the Timeline
There are occasions when using 20-word sentences is unavoidable. You’ll surely lose your listener if your sentence doesn’t follow a constructive timeline. Switch the sentence around and make sure your message comes. If the timeline makes sense i.e. cause always comes before effect, you could even write a 40-word sentence in a way that the listener can follow it.
3. Avoid Wasted Breath
Sentences with over 28 words are rarely written by one person. Avoid meetings where everyone voices their opinion and takes turns revising the script. All you achieve with these kind of changes is wasted breath. With spoken language, shared knowledge plays a big role; things can be left unsaid or indirectly implied.
4. Embrace the Reverse-Punchline
Many news outlets use a trick for almost every item. The presenter opens with a striking detail to grab your attention.
In the Basque region of Spain an enormous forest fire has broken out which, according to Spanish authorities, poses a threat to the town of San Sebastian.
Or using the Reverse-punchline:
A giant forest fire. That’s what has broken out in the Spanish Basque. A fire so enormous that it’s threatening the town of San Sebastian. Today tens of firemen are trying to extinguish it.
Let’s try and translate that into a promo for an app:
With our app, you’ll find over 300 designers who can provide a logo or design for your company, whether you are looking for an outstanding, corporate or colourful design.
In a Promo?
An outstanding design. A corporate design. A colourful design. It makes no difference. With our app you’ll find the designers for your company logo or design.
5. Read It Out Loud
Do you want to know if the script is any good? Test it with your colleagues. If they do not quite get what you are trying to tell then, the script still needs some polishing.