Instructional design/Ed Podcasts/The Art and Science of Writing Audio Scripts

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Educational Podcasts Introduction Podcasting and Educational Podcasting The Art and Science of Writing Audio Scripts Audio Scripts Pitfalls Assessment Summary

The Art and Science of Writing Audio Scripts[edit | edit source]

Script Sample

So why do we even need to author an audio script for our educational podcasts?

A well-written script will not only save you time and trouble in recording and editing your podcast but will also enable you to produce podcasts that sound more focused, clear and polished. In simple instructional design terms, authoring a well-written script will both increase your production efficiency, and increase the probability of producing a more effective and appealing educational podcast.

To be effective, efficient and appealing however, your well-written script needs to be written for listeners’ ears not their eyes (i.e. for speaking not reading). In other words, you must treat your script as a mere container for your spoken language and not as its source or guide. It’s about how it will sound not about how it looks on paper. Additionally, it needs to be written in a way that doesn’t show your listeners that you are reading from a script (it needs to be invisible).

The crucial point to remember is that the overall sound and feel of your podcast depends not only on how well it is delivered (read) but also on how well its script was written, which gives you even further control on the final result.

So what differentiates a text for the ears from a text for the eyes?

We’ll consider three key elements: Structure, Content and Audience Rapport:

This is the audio recording of the first 30-second "Intro" section of the script above


A text written for the eyes can usually afford to be more formal and intricate, and can easily incorporate extended or complex speech… without loosing its audience. Even if it is not ideal, readers can obviously linger on each and every sentence and move onto the next one only after they are ready to do so. In a podcast, however, listeners do not have this luxury. They listen to what you say as you speak out each sentence, and although they can, most listeners do not (and generally need not) routinely pause your audio, rewind it and listen to it again and again. Accordingly, be sure to watch out for any words or syntax that is not easy to be said out loud: Using the active rather than passive voice, for instance, will usually result in shorter and clearer sentences, cutting your use of dependent clauses will make it easier for listeners to follow your main idea, avoiding long winded expressions and verb phrases will make your text shorter and simpler (e.g. ‘on an everyday basis’ vs. ‘daily’ and ‘put the emphasis on’ vs. ‘emphasize’).

So the first step in writing for the ear is to use simple short sentences and words, and to make each sentence, paragraph and even the overall podcast as short as possible. Skip any unnecessary flair and get to your point.

Your litmus test for achieving this goal: Try reading your script out loud - Do you need to stop for air midway through one of your sentences? If the answer is yes, that sentence might be good for the eyes but not for the ears; it is too long or complex. As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t need more than one breath of air to utter any one single sentence.


Podcast listeners need to follow not only your short and simple sentences but also your ideas and overarching message. The challenge here is that your ideas will reach your listeners’ ears, literally, at the speed of sound. They will have no time or chance for profound reflection and contemplation as they listen to your podcast. Your ideas and overall message must thus be “digestible” from the standpoint of any average, one-time, listener in your audience. This is, of course, a relative issue (i.e. the perceived level and complexity of any podcast is a matter that depends on your target audience) but playing it safe is always the advisable route. Remember, a podcast is usually a good place to introduce, review or reinforce a topic, try to leave the heavy duty pondering to the discussion boards.

So make sure that the ideas you are communicating are clear and easy to follow in respect to YOUR target audience, and be sure to communicate these ideas in a simple-clear manner.

Your litmus test for achieving this goal: When you try reading your script do you repeatedly stumble in your reading when you get to a certain point? Will your listener need to stop to think on what you have just read? If the answer is yes, that idea or its wording is not clear.

Audience Rapport

Lastly, effective writing for the ear also entails the creation of a good rapport between you and your listeners. You want your script to sound spontaneous and friendly not distant and artificial so be sure to adhere to the following simple guidelines:

  1. Talk ‘with’ your listeners not ‘to’ them. Use inclusive language such as 'we' and 'our' rather than ‘you’ and ‘your.’
  2. Do not shy away from contractions and informal language (e.g. it’s, let’s, there’s…).
  3. Avoid clustering together a series of sentences that all have the same length and structure. This will make you sound like a mechanical and indifferent lecturer rather than a friendly and spontaneous partner.
  4. Decide beforehand and clearly mark in your script, specific places for pauses (short moments of silence), which we naturally incorporate in our spoken language. This will both help you keep your learners engage, and give them some valuable time to ‘digest’ what you are saying.

Your litmus test for achieving this goal: When you read your script out loud, imagine that you are talking with another person sitting next to you. If you don’t speak like this in real-life, your script might lead to a distant and artificial-sounding podcast.

These are the key elements en route to a script for the ears, and the brief assessment below will help you test and reinforce your knowledge of these key elements:

Next Step[edit | edit source]

Now that you know more about what you should be aiming for when you write your audio scripts, you can move to the next step where you will learn about the things you should aim to avoid when writing your audio scripts, that is, audio scripts pitfalls.


Educational Podcasts Introduction Podcasting and Educational Podcasting The Art and Science of Writing Audio Scripts Audio Scripts Pitfalls Assessment Summary