Podcast Script Template + 2023 Method to Improve It With AI
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Want your podcast to stand out? Start by writing a script.
While plenty of podcasts don’t write out every word that’s said on air, many professionally-made podcasts use some sort of script to keep hosts on track:
- Q&A podcasts plan their Qs ahead of time.
- Narrative series write out full stories to be recorded, with tape from live reporting and other sound bites edited in.
- Even freewheeling conversational podcasts that sound like they’re just two friends talking, when they’re done well, follow some sort of script.
Your podcast should too.
But how do you write a good podcast script? What should a script include?
We’ll cover all of that. But first, here’s why you should not wing it:
Why Your Podcast Needs a Script
Have you ever completely forgotten what you were going to say in the middle of a conversation with a friend? Same here. 🙋🏼♀️
Many times, we can find our way back to the idea. We retrace our steps with the help of the person we’re talking to and then, “Oh yeah! This is what I was going to say.”
News flash: Your podcast listeners don’t want to get lost with you. They’re not interested in the rabbit holes or the side trails. They want you to get to the point.
That’s the first reason you should use a script:
#1. A script helps you get to the point.
By planning out your subjects and talking points ahead of time, you’ll be able to stay on track — even in a conversational podcast — and cover what you intend to.
#2. A script keeps you moving along.
Instead of spending way too much time waxing verbose on, for example, how natural grass is superior to artificial turf for field sports, you can take cues from the script to move on. This way you don’t waste too much time on a particular topic and your listeners won’t feel like they lost an hour to aimless chitchat.
#3. A script equips you with relevant information.
Do you want to reference a particular study when you chat with your guest about mental health? Put the important facts and citation information in your script so you can easily find it mid-conversation.
By preparing a script, you can articulate ideas before you’re facing a microphone. If you’re making a narrative podcast, your script will ensure that you tell the story in a complete and well-structured way. If you’re hosting an interview podcast, your script will outline the questions and topics you want to cover so you don’t lose direction in the middle of the conversation.
“I can’t think of a time that winging it is ever a good idea,” says Kyla Carneiro, a freelance podcast producer whose show credits include Let’s Red Table That.
Quick note: Not every podcast script will look the same. Whether you fully write out paragraphs of narration or just list a series of talking points will depend on what type of podcast you’re making. We’ll cover this in-depth later.
Basic elements of any podcast script
There’s plenty of variation in podcast formats, but most include these basic elements:
Not to be confused with the intro. The opening is the first 30 seconds to two minutes of your podcast, and it usually gives a sneak peak of what’s coming later in the episode.
For conversational podcasts, this may be a particularly compelling clip from the middle of the conversation. For a narrative podcast, this may be an exciting piece of tape that will catch your audience’s attention and entice them to keep listening.
This is where you tell listeners what your podcast is, what it’s about, and who the hosts are. If the episode is part of a larger series, you’ll explain that here — basically, give your listeners the context they need to understand what you’re doing on your podcast. You may record one intro and reuse it for a whole season, or do a slightly modified version for each episode.
3. Sponsor segment
If you have sponsors for your podcast, you’ll need to give them their promised time “on air.” Maybe they’re giving you audio that will be edited into your podcast, or maybe you’re reading written content that highlights their product. Either way, you’ll need to note in your script where the sponsor segment goes and how long it is. (Include the sponsor content in the script if you or another host will be reading it.)
This is the "meat" of your podcast. It's where you feature the topics you've chosen, whether it's an interview, a free-form conversation, a deep dive, audio essay, or even a story. It's your podcast so you can do whatever you want :)
5. Closing remarks & credits
Whether you’re producing a narrative show or a conversational one, you’ll need to record closing remarks and credits for the end of each episode. You can sum up the current episode and/or give a preview of what’s coming in the next. This is also where you can ask listeners to subscribe and review your podcast (aka the call-to-action). Finish by crediting everyone who helped produce the show.
Scripts for narrative vs. conversational podcasts
Most podcasts fall into one of two buckets: narrative or conversational.
A narrative podcast is like an audio documentary. It tells a story, sometimes in one episode, sometimes over a series. It may use tape from interviews, audio from news sources, clips of music or ambient sound to create an experience for listeners. All of these elements will be noted in the script, along with fully written narration.
“There are some scripted narrative podcasts that just have a person telling a story, and there are some that are more heavily edited, more heavily produced, more heavily reported maybe, that are going to have all sorts of tape cut into them,” says Sarah Vitak, a freelance science journalist and podcast producer who’s worked on podcasts for Scientific American, America’s Test Kitchen, and Outside Magazine.
The script may be read by the writer or by someone else who serves as the podcast host. The podcast editor will also reference the script when stitching together the various bits of audio for the final production.
A conversational podcast, meanwhile, is a lot simpler — at least where the script is concerned. According to Carneiro, the script is more of an outline listing the various topics and points that will be covered and the general order in which they’ll be tackled.
Some sections may be fully written out, such as transitions from one segment of a show to the next. And if a show has more than one host, the script will assign questions or talking points to particular hosts. But the script shouldn’t be overly written, because you want the conversation to be as free-flowing as possible — with enough structure to stay on track.
The wide, wonderful world of podcast formats (+script templates)
Different types of podcasts use different scripting styles. Here’s a look at the most common, with script templates you can use to get started.
A news podcast might focus on one story in particular or cover a variety of stories in brief segments. (The Daily from the New York Times is an example of a news podcast that uses both narrative and conversational styles.) This style will likely be more heavily scripted, with some free-flowing elements at the beginning and end of segments.
2. Standalone story
This may be a longer episode, anywhere from 35 to 90 minutes long. But it’s all focused on telling one story that connects to your podcast’s overall theme. This means you have to do a lot of work: introduce characters, setting, the problem, and tell the whole story from beginning to end.
Your script will be crucial for nailing down your story’s structure. Figure it out now — before recording any of the narration — that way you don’t have to re-record audio when you reach the editing stage.
3. Serial story
This style of podcast follows the path paved by Sarah Koenig’s own Serial, the original groundbreaking podcast that adapted elements of the best television shows to create a binge-worthy podcast series.
A serial podcast tells one story over multiple episodes. An episode is like a chapter of a novel — it catches your audience’s attention, keeps them interested and entertained, and leaves them wanting more.
Early episodes will lay the groundwork, introducing characters and conflicts. Middle episodes will develop the conflicts and characters, drawing your audience deeper into the story. The last few episodes will cover the climax and resolution (or denouement), and may include a sort of epilogue.
If your podcast features one or more hosts with no guests, you may be making a freestyle podcast. These podcasts are the least structured, most open-ended podcasts out there. They may have a topical focus or simply be a couple friends talking about whatever they’re interested in. But they can still use a script.
2. Interview style
One of the most common podcast formats, interview shows pose questions to a rotating cast of guests — or to well-known people who may be experts in a particular area. There may be one or two hosts, with a bit of research done on the front end to prepare thoughtful questions. In certain cases, producers conduct pre-interviews to find out what types of questions a subject responds to best.
The script works as a guide for hosts to ensure they ask the burning questions
3. Roundtable discussion
With multiple hosts and occasional guests, roundtable podcasts tend to platform the ideas and opinions of people who may or may not know what they’re talking about. To make sure you add value to the podcast-scape, script yours with vetted facts and research. The script can arm hosts with current, trustworthy information — and make sure they don’t talk over each other once the conversation gets rolling.
6 steps to writing your podcast script
1. Choose your subject & podcast style.
Time to nail down what your podcast is about and what style you’ll use.
- Will you tell true or made-up stories? Play with sound effects to create an emotional experience for listeners? You’re making a narrative podcast.
- Will you interview guests on a variety of topics? Gather your buddies around a mic to opine on current events? You’re making a conversational podcast.
This is also the time to decide if you want to break your podcast up into seasons.
Before you record your first episode, research podcasts similar to yours. How will yours be different?
Once you’ve nailed down the focus of your show, research your initial episode. Depending on your topic, you may need to access studies, historical archives, or dive deep into the recesses of early YouTube. If you’re combing through documents, use Wordtune Read to take a load off. The tool can summarize written sources and pull out key facts for your show.
3. Write your script (using AI & the templates above).
Pick the template that makes the most sense for your show and start filling in the blanks to flesh out your script. Keep in mind the conventions of narrative versus conversational scripts mentioned earlier: If you’re writing a script for a conversational show, keep it bare bones.
You’ll also want to write the way that you speak, so it may help to use a dictation software (Voice Typing is available in Google Docs on the Tools menu). If you want to add a joke or a specific example to your script, Wordtune Spices can give you ideas that you can adjust as needed to your speaking style.
4. Do a dry run of your first draft.
Read your script out loud and watch for sticky points like:
- Long sentences that you can’t say with a single breath.
- Wordings that are awkward to read aloud. Podcast scripts are tongue-twister-free zones!
- Alliteration that distracts from what you’re trying to say.
- Words that are hard to pronounce.
Wordtune can help you find alternate wordings to smooth out your script. But in cases where you can’t avoid the awkward or unfamiliar word, follow the next step:
5. Add delivery notes.
Delivery notes are special marks and notes on a script that tell the reader how to read the script with proper inflection, pauses, and pronunciations. This can include the phonetic spelling of particular words, underlines for emphasis, or slash marks for a slight pause. If you’re making notes for another person, make sure they understand what your different marks mean.
6. Finalize the script.
You’ve run through your script a few times, fact-checked your information, replaced awkward phrasings, and marked it up for the reader. Read it one more time to make sure it’s clean and clear. Then save the file and send it off — or start recording.
Pro tips for script writing
Writing for speech is not the same as writing to be read. Here are a few tips from experienced podcasters to help you get your script right:
1. Use segments to add structure to a conversational podcast.
It’s easy for conversational podcasts to drone on and on — that’s why it’s a good idea to impose a little structure. You can do this by establishing consistent segments for each episode. This could be things like rapid-fire questions, 7-10 minutes where a guest tells their personal story, or a segment where hosts go through a list of news items and offer their initial response.
Make sure your segments are relevant to your podcast and add variety and energy to each episode.
2. If you’re writing for someone else, learn their voice.
Pay attention to how your host or narrator words things — and emulate that in the way you write their parts. This way, when they record the script, it sounds more natural.
“If you can actually have a conversation with them about the topic and record them talking, so you can see what their tone is, what sorts of phrases they use,” Vitak says, that can make it easier to write in their voice.
3. Check facts before or during the script-writing stage.
Adding information to the script that you haven’t thoroughly fact-checked is a rookie mistake Carneiro advises against. The hosts “might base a whole conversation off an incorrect fact,” she says, and once it’s recorded, you can’t simply edit it out. Do everyone a favor and vet facts on the front end.
4. Keep sentences short and focused.
A good rule of thumb: one idea per sentence. If your script feels choppy on paper, it might be perfect for audio. “If the sentence is really long, you can get lost halfway through,” Vitak says.
5. Use AI to simplify and edit for clarity.
If you’re struggling to break up a particular long, rambling sentence, let Wordtune lend a hand and offer suggestions on how to shorten or simplify it.
6. Be prepared for your script to change.
Especially if you’re working with other people. The script is a guideline for your conversationalists — and on the narrative side, everyone from the podcast editor to the sound designer to the narrator will likely have thoughts on how to say things differently.
Be open to feedback and don’t get too attached to your wording. The most important thing is that your audience understands what’s said and the thoughts don’t get lost in translation.