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When preparing for a big game, there is one thing all football players are required to know. The game plan. Various plays prepared beforehand to use during the game. 

What is your debate game plan? What will you say if the Negative team attacks the credibility of your advocate? What about that really nuanced Topicality argument from the last tournament? Do you have a strategy planned in case someone runs a Counterplan against you?

Scripted responses are one of the best tools that you can use, for both Affirmative and Negative. Using a pre-written, carefully crafted paragraph to defend your case in a round where you have limited prep and speaking time is an invaluable skill to any motivated debater. 

While the extent of how much you write for a pre-scripted response may vary depending on the debater, having at least a sentence or two planned out will cut down your in-round prep time and eliminate unnecessary decisions. Some may choose to write one sentence, others an entire paragraph and still others may choose to simply outline their argument tags with the evidence they’ll use. At the end of the day, how much you write ahead of time is completely up to you. However, like memorizing the playbook before a football game, writing scripted responses provides many benefits. 

  1. Increased Word Economy

Prewriting and refining answers to arguments allows you to cut down the number of words you use, then in rounds, you appear polished, prepared, and concise. Writing out arguments outside of round, and learning to cut down the number of written words also helps you refine your efficiency. Scripting responses can be a super easy fix for struggles with word economy. 

  1. Saving Valuable Prep Time

If you find yourself always using more prep time than you want to, having responses already crafted that you can easily pull out and use in your speech will reduce your prep time use. Regardless of your stance on prep time (See links for discussion on prep time- pro to using more prep time here, and the con here) it’s always a good idea to be in control of how much time you’re using, and be more efficient where possible. Do you have trouble organizing your thoughts while listening to opposing speeches? Do you and your partner need to spend more prep time getting on the same page instead of individually prepping responses? Prewriting response options could be for you!

  1. Easily Upgrade your Judge Appeal

If you want to work on being able to connect with your judge, pre-writing some introductions, catchphrases, and easy-to-remember tags can really help. Writing ahead of time allows you to refine your ideas, test them out on family members or coaches, and hopefully generate your best jokes. 

Despite the easier way to appeal to judges, practice word economy, and reduce wasting prep time, many students choose to avoid scripted responses. There are two main reasons for this, students say they think better on their feet, or that arguments they face are so different every time that it’s no use. 

  • While it may be true that your speaking is best on the cuff, that does not negate your need for speaking efficiently and appealing to your judge as much as possible. Practice your skills outside of round, and of course scripting responses is not the fix to all problems, nor does it work for everyone, but don’t dismiss what can be your most helpful too. 
  • Unique arguments definitely appear, but the best way to prepare for these is to be able to clearly state every aspect of your case, what every advocate believes, and scripted responses to other arguments will mean you have more prep time to use for any arguments you haven’t heard before. If the arguments you face really change completely every round, scripting can still help you with other aspects of your speaking. 

Make a playbook. Use your time outside of the round to better help yourself in your moment of need.

About the Author

Amanda is currently a Dean’s List student at New Saint Andrews College in Idaho. She completed 4 years in NCFCA. In the 2021 season, she advanced to Nationals in all her events, ranking 10th in Open Interp and 14th in Team Policy Debate. During that same season, she received 1st place Biblical Thematic at all 4 Regional Qualifiers plus Regionals, also prequalifying to Nationals at National Open 1. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys hosting her friends for dinner, eating garlic bread, and fiddling with her ukulele.

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