Companies and marketers are spending more on online video. Which makes sense. Motion attracts attention. Part of our lizard hindbrain perks up and says, “Hey. That thing. It’s moving. Can it eat me? Oh! Can I eat it?” Instincts like that make for receptivity, if only at first.
The key is “at first.” Even with that advantage, you have to keep viewers engaged. And let’s be honest, y’all — a lot of videos suck.
Given that I’ve written, oh, damn near all types of things, I’ve unsurprisingly done some script work. What’s cool is that some of the stuff I learned studying literature, especially writing for the stage, cross-applies to video marketing.
So here are some tips. Free of charge, from me to you. These are the little fiddly bits that have to do with sentence structure. These are phonemes. These are the things your CMO doesn’t even know to ask you for when he asks you for a script.
I know, right? I’m super sweet.
Things To Watch Out For
- Plosives: Y’know how sometimes someone is using a mic and they say “please” and the word pops out of their face, echoes around the room, and makes glasses shatter and babies cry? Yep. That initial p-sound is a plosive phoneme. That isn’t the only one, either. Words that start with a hard t, k, d, or g can have the same effect. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid them! It just pays to be aware of sounds that might rock up on the mic and rock the mic right out of someone’s hand. If you can’t write around ‘em, coach your talent to be aware of them.
- Sibilants: Before the live action Jungle Book flick, there was the animated version in which Kaa, voiced by Sterling Holloway, sings “Trust in Me.” Trussst in me, jussst in me…yeah. You get where I’m going here. Hisses are just as rough on a mic as pops. Not only that, but stack a bunch of sibilant syllables together, and you’ve written a tongue twister. Keep an eye on words that start and end with st, too. A bunch of those in proximity is a linguistic obstacle course.
- The Letter H: I listen to roughly 72346% more hip-hop than folks expect upon first meeting me. And one of the things that incredibly fast rappers do is avoid words with a hard h sound. Listen to K.A.A.N. or Tech N9ne (not in front of any impressionable toddlers) and you’ll notice they substitute h sounds with a sounds whenever possible. Or ask Lin Manuel Miranda about the challenges of rapping in a musical about Hamilton.
Things To Consider Using
- Parallel Sentence Structure: Make sure your verbs all match. “Drinking and dancing” is more memorable than “dancing and having drinks.”
- Repetition: You know how you can sing along with songs you don’t even like because you know all the words from total radio saturation? That’s the power of repetition.
- Alliteration and Rhyme: But use with caution! No one wants a demented nursery rhyme. Unless that’s your brand. I’m not here to judge.
Thing You Should Definitely Do
- Work Closely With Designer(s)/Videographer(s): Y’all are a team. In this together. Spend the extra ten minutes at the beginning of a video script project to see how they are visualizing things with their highly trained visualizer brains and you will be vastly more efficient. Also, most design folks are awesome and make terrible pop culture references at the drop of a hat. Y’know, like writers.
Now go forth and write excellent scripts, y’all. You got this.