Transforming Educational Text into Conversational Scripts

Transforming Educational Text into Conversational Scripts

You’ve built the course. The content is eloquently written and error-free. You’ve outlined which sections should contain video segments and which sections will need narration. Before hiring a voice-over artist to record the narration consider the material they’ll be asked to read. Is it too formal? Try reading it out loud.

Does it sound natural?

Desertion rates are an issue in continuing education whether online or in-class. In eLearning the course content is often narrated and it needs to be presented in a way that's going to keep the students attention. When designing an eLearning course try creating it as though a teacher is having a conversation with a student rather than as a lecture which can become monotonous to listen to.

One of the problems is that most educational text is written in perfect prose when the reality is people just don’t talk like that. In many instances the voice-over artist will be handed the text as originally written and then be asked to read it “like you’re having a conversation over a cup of coffee” but monotonous scripts will produce monotonous narration. If you want the narration to sound more conversational then you’ll need to adapt the educational text into a script that flows naturally for speaking. 

What’s the easiest way to accomplish that?

Writing in Contractions

You’re, You’ll, I’m, It’s, Haven’t, There’s, and so on. In everyday speech we use contractions rather than the full words. Unless using the full words to emphasize a point, using the full words tends to sound unnatural and rigid. So avoid putting your audience to sleep and write it like you say it. Go back over the content and add contractions.

Adding Dialogue

In addition to writing in natural speech patterns, adding dialogue will enhance your course content and engage your audience. Dialogue is a good way to give the course some personality and make it relatable to the listener. Try listening to the conversations occurring around you in the office or in a restaurant to get an idea of the natural ebb and flow. Conversational reads should have a rhythm that is spoken at a clear easy-to-understand pace.

Keeping it Simple

Put away that word of the day calendar! If there’s a simpler word to use, than use it. Educational text books tend to use long descriptive language and words that most people wouldn’t ordinarily use when speaking. It is better to choose a common equivalent word and simplify the sentences. Avoid using jargon that the uninitiated wouldn’t understand. Although you might be an expert in the field, your audience is just being introduced to the subject matter. Make it easy for them to understand.

Using Artistic Direction in Side Notes

Think about your voice actor. How do you want each segment or line to be read? Add little notes on the emotion that should be conveyed to help the narrator get some context for how they should be reading their lines. Make sure you use the correct punctuation and leave white space between paragraphs to indicate a pause. If you want them to put emphasis on certain words or sentences try highlighting them in bold font.

Testing with Microsoft Word

Did you know that Microsoft Word has a built-in tool that tests how readable your text is? It’s a handy little tool to help you understand how comprehensive the material will be for your intended audience. It scans your document and gives it a score based on the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level tests so that you know what grade level your text is reading at.

Reading Out Loud

The single greatest test to see if your script is conversational is to read it out loud. But don’t just mumble the words to yourself. Say it as though you were speaking directly to your audience. Get animated, annunciate, play different roles. As you read you’ll notice the spots that sound unnatural. Rewrite any words or sentences that don’t fall easily off the tongue.

Written by Lin Parkin