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Fred Roger's Method For Writing Scripts

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Someone said:

People think this is silly, but read about Fred rogers’ method for writing a script for his show. The rules aren’t fully applicable to presentations, but the attention to detail and to the Interpretation of the audience is. Don’t use any words carelessly.

I said:

I’m not normal. I’ve got three articles open right now. Is there a canonical resource you’d recommend, or I should just seat-of-the-pants research it?


I’m going to knock out what I can in 20 minutes, share back with said individual, and calibrate on if they think I learned what I need to learn. Timer starts at 3:17p.

It’s now 3:37.


I didn’t find anything super specific to how he writes his scripts, but I think there’s a lot to glean from his approach to strongly empathizing with his audience. “strong empathy” feels like a criminal understatement.

I’ve never seen Mr. Rogers. I’m tempted now to find some and watch it. If you’d recommend it, where should I start? Any youtube video overviews I should check out?

10 things Tom Hangs learned by Playing Mr. Rogers #

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood: 10 Things Tom Hanks Learned By Playing Mr. Rogers (screenrant)

The 10 lessons from the article.

  1. Be kind, be kind, and be kind
  2. Every single person you’re talking to should feel like they’re the only person in the world who matters
  3. The slow, reflective nature of Mr. Rogers’ kindness
  4. Be the message, don’t preach the message
  5. Even now, keep looking for the helpers
  6. The sweater is the key
  7. Embrace the good and true, over the easy and cynical
  8. To spread joy is the natural order of things
  9. Kindness and compassion as ministry
  10. It’s not just a children’s show

The titles don’t do it justice. Some of these spoke very loudly to me.


A few quotes in particular jumped out at me:

Per the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating into Freddish:

  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street.
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, Ask your parents where it is safe to play.
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.`
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.`
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.`
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.`
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.`

In working on the show, Rogers interacted extensively with academic researchers. Daniel R. Anderson, a psychologist formerly at the University of Massachusetts who worked as an advisor for the show, remembered a speaking trip to Germany at which some members of an academic audience raised questions about Rogers’s direct approach on television. They were concerned that it could lead to false expectations from children of personal support from a televised figure. Anderson was impressed with the depth of Rogers’s reaction, and with the fact that he went back to production carefully screening scripts for any hint of language that could confuse children in that way.

As simple as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood looked and sounded, every detail in it was the product of a tremendously careful, academically informed process.

Now I’m wondering about the financial success of his show.

Wikipedia: Fred Rogers #


The show was popular:

by 2016 it was the third-longest running program in PBS history

Ah, here’s how involved he was:

According to King, the process of putting each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood together was “painstaking”[59] and Rogers’ contribution to the program was “astounding”. Rogers wrote and edited all the episodes, played the piano and sang for most of the songs, wrote 200 songs and 13 operas, created all the characters (both puppet and human), played most of the major puppet roles, hosted every episode, and produced and approved every detail of the program.

He had two stages to the show:

n 1975 Rogers stopped producing Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood to focus on adult programming. […] In 1979, after an almost five-year hiatus, Rogers returned to producing the Neighborhood; King calls the new version “stronger and more sophisticated than ever”

Ahhh…. influence, and storytelling:

Even though Rogers was not yet nationally known, he was chosen to testify because of his ability to make persuasive arguments and to connect emotionally with his audience. The clip of Rogers’ testimony, which was televised and has since been viewed by millions of people on the internet, helped to secure funding for PBS for many years afterwards.

Lets watch the clip, or queue it up for later at least. He starts to speak at 0:20:

I will watch this video, just not quite right now.

Oh, and he’s from Pittsburgh. I went to school near there, just finished working remotely for a company in Pittsburgh. I loved visiting the city.

Optional Next Steps #

  1. I could read Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers
  2. Actually watch some Mr. Rogers clips. I’m tempted to do that anyway, now.
  3. Any recommended youtube videos?