Finding your way on YouTube is generally a trial-and-error type of adventure, but it can’t hurt to know how other YouTubers do it when working out what is best for you.
One of the most common questions in this respect is “do YouTubers have scripts?”, and the answer to that is… sometimes.
Every YouTuber does things a little different, and scripting their videos is no exception to that. There are different levels of scripting, however, and by understanding what they are, you should be better placed to work out which will work for you.
So read on, and we’ll take a look at these different levels, and then we’ll get into some tips and tricks regarding scripting your YouTube videos.
The Different Levels of Scripting a YouTube Video
Saying that a video is scripted can be a little misleading since there are different degrees to how much your video can be scripted.
In this section, we’re going to describe the main levels of scripting you might use when making a YouTube video, as well as give you a few examples of types of videos that might use each level.
The first level of scripting is no script!
Of course, this method has its drawbacks, but it works great for those YouTubers with the gift of the gab. Not having a script at all is something of a mixed blessing.
If you can pull it off, it can make your videos considerably easier to make, since you don’t need to worry about writing a script in advance and you don’t need to worry about reading that script when you record the video. On the other hand, if you can’t pull it off, you could leave yourself with a lot of editing to do, or an awkward, stilted video in the end. Perhaps even both.
You’ve probably realised by now that the determining factor for whether having no script at all is suitable for you is your own ability to improvise, remember what you have to say, and be entertaining without a prompt. If you are good at freeform speaking, this will be more comfortable for you.
There are many videos where this type of approach is well suited, such as videos where you are interviewing someone, or videos where you are giving commentary on a topic. Just remember the general rule when creating content that less is more. If you find yourself rambling or going off on tangents, rein yourself in. And don’t be afraid to edit bits out later.
Just an Outline
The next step up from no script is some script, but not a complete, word-for-word write up of what you are going to say. Here you would have the main points you plan to address—almost like a bullet point list—along with anything particularly important you need to remember, such as certain phrases, statistics, or something similar.
Outlines are an excellent option for people who are comfortable talking to the camera without too much prompting, but who are perhaps not quite as competent when it comes to remembering everything they have to say. The outline serves to remind you what you have to cover, allowing you to word things however feels right in the moment.
An outline script is mostly good for anything you might go scriptless for but aren’t confident enough in your ability to hit all the beats you need to hit: interviews, commentary, list videos, retrospectives, and more.
Mostly scripted is a level of scripting that covers anything between an outline and a full script.
With a mostly scripted video, you might start with an outline and flesh out certain details, or fully script parts that you want to ensure are articulated properly while leaving other parts in a more outline form.
As the name suggests, a fully scripted video has the entirety of the spoken word content written out in advance for you to read as you record. While this form of scripting is great for those who are not comfortable making it up as they go along, or who are not confident in their ability to remember what it is they have to say, there is a trade-off.
While you do not need to be able good at speaking on the fly with a full script, you do need to be able to read aloud from your script. This may not sound difficult if you have never tried it, but it requires a certain amount of skill to do in a way that doesn’t sound wooden. It may take a little practice to get your live script reading to sound natural. Anchor people are often derided for just reading from an autocue for a living, but you may appreciate what they do a little more after trying this for the first time.
From the perspective of the script itself, there is no difference between a voice over script and full script—other than you may write things a little differently for a voiceover video. The difference here comes after.
It is much easier to get a polished, professional-sounding voiceover because you are not recording video of yourself saying it, which means you can edit the audio without it looking weird and disjointed in the finished product. This gives you a little more leeway when it comes to less than radio-ready cadence, mistakes, or accidental noises like sneezing.
Choosing the Right Style of Script for You and Your YouTube Videos
There are many things to take into account when deciding which style of scripted video will work best for you, but ultimately it will boil down to three main aspects.
- Ability to speak off the cuff
- Ability to read fluidly from a script
Naturally, if you struggle to remember things the things you are going to talk about, you will need to have some kind of prompt to help you along. How much you struggle to remember your subject matter will determine how much you need to write out in your script, but this is something of a definitive restriction since being able to talk in an entertaining manner off of the top of your head is no use if you can’t remember what you are supposed to be talking about!
Similarly, if you are no good at talking off the cuff, you can rule out having no script at all, and if you are bad at reading aloud in an entertaining manner, you can rule out reading from a full script.
Once you’ve factored those things in, the next big thing to consider is the video itself. Some types of video lend themselves better to being carefully scripted while others don’t. As a general rule, any content that is striving to be professional and informative will likely benefit from being scripted and the additional time and care put into the words used. Meanwhile, videos that are largely personality-driven, such as commentary videos and vlogs, are usually better done off the cuff.
Practice Makes Perfect
Though there are some exceptions, it’s worth noting that, most of the time, you can improve on the aspects you are not as competent at with a little practice.
By taking a little time each day to read a script aloud, or to talk in a freeform manner, you should start to see improvements. It can also help to record your practice sessions and watch them back, as that will help you pinpoint areas you need to improve. It may feel awkward and unintuitive to be making conscious efforts to change things like inflexions and mannerisms when you talk, but if you keep doing it, it will start to feel natural.
There are exceptions to this, such as if you have learning disorder like dyslexia that is preventing you from being able to read your script smoothly aloud. If this is something you face, it is crucial not to let it frustrate you. As the somewhat gruesome saying goes; there are many ways to skin a cat. If improvement in a particular area is not an option for you, don’t dwell on it, put your energies into a style of video that you can do, and work on perfecting that instead.
Tips for Scripting Your YouTube Videos
Regardless of what level of scripting you choose to go with, here are some tips that can help you deliver the best possible content.
Read it Back
Always read your script back before rolling the cameras.
Ideally, read it out loud and carefully pay attention to how the words sound together. Sometimes, things seem to flow together nicely when written down but sound awkward when read aloud.
As you get more experience at writing your scripts, you will gain a more intuitive feel for how words onscreen translate to words spoken aloud, but even successful, professional writers often read their dialogue out before signing off on it.
Get Second Opinions
While you are still finding your feet as a YouTuber, take every opportunity to get second opinions on things like your delivery and tone. This can be done through a live read to a friend or family member, a pre-upload viewing of the video, or a review of a video you have already uploaded.
The idea of reading your content out loud to somebody in person may be a little offputting at first, but it’s worth remembering that doing so will allow you get valuable feedback on your delivery without going through the long process of recording and editing the video.
Play to Your Strengths
Don’t get hung up on trying to do things a certain way when you are more comfortable doing things a different way.
We mentioned above that informative videos often lend themselves better to being scripted, but that does not mean that you cannot make good, informative videos off the cuff.
In fact, given that most of the battle of succeeding on YouTube lies in standing out from the crowd, finding a way to do things a little differently may actually help your channel.
If you are lucky enough to reach a stage in your YouTube career where brands are willing to sponsor your content, you may find yourself in a situation where you have some pre-written ad copy to read. Essentially a scripted section. Sometimes the brand will allow the content creators they sponsor to do the ad freeform, but that will largely depend on the brand and the reputation of the creator.
If you struggle with things like this, don’t be afraid think outside of the box. You might record your ad copy separately from the rest of the video, allowing you to put a little more time into it, or even get someone else to read it. Just be sure that whatever solution you choose doesn’t violate whatever agreement you have with the brand. For example, some brands may require that the face of the YouTube channel is the one to read the copy, or that the copy be read word-for-word as it was written.
One of the most important points we’d like you to take away from this post is that there is no inherently right or wrong way to make a YouTube video. Ultimately, the best method is the one that you are comfortable working with and gets your message across. You should always strive for improvement where possible, and scripting your content (if you don’t already) can certainly help with that, but it should by no means be considered a necessity.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different levels of scriptwriting, either. You might make a test video where you record a sample of you working with no script, working with an outline, and reading a complete script, and then judge which one you feel works best. Remember, not everything you make needs to be uploaded to YouTube. It is okay to consign things to the editing room floor from time to time.
Get second opinions if you are comfortable doing so, and if you’re not comfortable showing other people your test videos, try to work on that because far more people will see your finished videos if you achieve any success on the platform.