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StoryTellers | , ,

Let’s get this out of the way.

The most common question about videos is, “How long should it be?”

The real answer is, “As long as it needs to be and not a second longer.” But that’s not helpful, so here are a few guidelines.

For a web-based video, your target length should be 2-3 minutes. If the content is compelling and the production is really good, you can push that run-time. But 5 minutes should be your drop-dead limit. And remember, the average person can speak 150 words in a minute.

The overall length, however, should not be your main concern. I’ve seen 1 minute videos that felt like 5 and vice versa. Focus on making your video script the most concise, compelling, and complete script you can.

Remember that thesis statement you wrote? Well, here’s where it becomes very useful. You must pass every sentence through the filter of that thesis statement. If it doesn’t contribute to the thesis, it doesn’t belong in the video.

Maybe you’ve learned something and your thesis statement needs to be revised. That’s fine. Editing and rewriting are crucial parts of the creative process, and remember, with any creative endeavor, there are no formulas. There are no rules as long as it works. And there’s the rub. You’ll have to decide what works and what doesn’t. All I can do is give you a few tips.

Tip 1. Simple Sentence Structure

In videos, and any spoken word format for that matter, it’s difficult for audiences to track with you when you have highly complex sentences, and it’s difficult for them when you have add-on independent clauses with excess multiple prepositional phrases (just like this sentence). Try to keep your sentences short and simple: subject-verb-object.

Tip 2. Be Brutal

If it’s not contributing to the communication of your thesis statement, cut it. If you can cut it and the whole still makes sense, cut it.

Tip 3. Kill Your Darlings

Mark Twain once said, “you’re not done until you’ve cut your favorite part.” I don’t know if Mark Twain said that or not, but “a lot of clever things are attributed to Mark Twain,” said Samuel Clemens.

The sentiment is harsh but true. Nine times out of ten, the part you like the most doesn’t fit with the rest of the piece. Why? Because you like it for the wrong reasons. You might sound really smart, or it might be really funny, but if you’re honest about how it passes through the “thesis statement filter,” you’ll see it just doesn’t belong.

For example, my Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens joke might be mildly funny, but if I were as brutal as I should be, it would be cut. It doesn’t contribute to the overall message of this post, which is about editing. And now my blog post is 24 words longer than it could be which is 10 seconds in a video. Do the math. Just three unnecessary sentences, and your video is half a minute longer than it could be.

Editing can be painful, but stick with it. Your script will be better for it. I can promise you that.