Figure \(19.1\) American crisis manager, lawyer, author, and television producer Judy Smith (b. 1958) speaks at the Roanoke College Regional Forum. Smith and her company, Smith & Company, served as the inspiration for the ABC television series Scandal, which ran from 2012 to 2018. (credit: “Judy Smith” by roanokecollege/flickr, CC BY 2.0)
While writing academic text may take up the bulk of your time as a student, other aspects of life involve writing as well, especially as you move toward an engaged social life and a career. One personal or professional task in particular is writing to speak. Whether speaking as part of a classroom assignment, a planned address, a professional presentation, or recording a video to post to a video-sharing social media platform, script writing shares much more with traditional academic writing than you might first believe. A successful speaking event is not achieved by a perfectly planned outline or even extensive research and knowledge on a topic—although these are important aspects. No, the key to memorable speech is the speaker’s connection with an audience, or group of listeners.
Greek philosophers and educators wrote the first texts for public speaking over 2,000 years ago. In fact, Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) wrote the treatise On Rhetoric, which covers many of the same concepts and topics you will encounter in this chapter, including rhetorical appeals, awareness of audience, and organization. As it turns out, effectively engaging an audience through speech is a time-honored endeavor. But new technologies, channels, and avenues of communication have expanded the opportunities for more and more voices to be heard.
In this chapter, you will read about podcast trailblazer Alice Wong, read a student script, and write your own script or outline advocating for a cause of your choice. Speaking of activism, you will discover how script writing and activism go hand in hand, opening new possibilities for communicating with your audience.