How to Write for Radio News Broadcasts
Writing for news radio can be challenging for the novice. Writing a script for a news radio broadcast is vastly different from writing a newspaper article or other informative document. When writing for news radio, the journalist must write in a way that's easy for the listener to process. This means using a conversational tone in an easy-to-understand, brief script. Consider the following tips for writing a news radio script.
Writing News Radio Scripts
Write in all capitals and double spaced. This is the standard format for broadcast scripts, as it's the easiest format for the broadcaster to read.
Write in the present tense. News radio broadcasts focus on what's happening now, not what happened 10 minutes ago. Writing in the present tense is standard practice in broadcasting.
Write for the ear. When writing for news radio, you must write as you speak; this is different from virtually every other writing style. Writing for the ear is much more informal than many writing styles. Write the news radio script in a voice that you might use if you were telling a friend about the news story.
Practice word economy. Don't use 10 words if you can effectively convey the same message in five words. Short and sweet is key when writing for news radio; listeners have much less patience than readers.
Mention only the vital facts. News radio broadcasting scripts should contain only vital information. In particular, many former print journalists are tempted to include name, age, city of residence and other facts that are typically included in print news stories. Only include this information if it's vital and significant to the story. A 43-year-old robber's age is not significant, whereas a 9-year-old robber's age is significant.
Estimate and use round numbers. Listeners have a difficult time processing "1,893." It's much easier to say "nearly 2,000." Only include specific numbers if it's absolutely vital to the news story; in most cases, rounding the number is more effective.
Include notations on pronunciation when appropriate. The broadcaster's preference will vary—some prefer that a notation is included on every instance of the word, while others prefer a notation on only the first instance of the word.
Use dashes for cases where each letter of an abbreviation must be pronounced. This means "EPA" would be "E-P-A." Conversely, "PETA" would remain "PETA" since it's pronounced as a word; the individual letters are not spoken.
Read the script aloud. Once complete, read the news radio script aloud to look for errors, difficult wording or areas that lack clarity. This is particularly important if the broadcaster will be reading the script "cold," without having read the script before he reads it on air. A scripting error on a cold read can be disastrous for the broadcaster.
Look for ambiguity. When reading over the script, check for ambiguity and clarity. Avoid potentially ambiguous terms like "he" if more than one person is referenced in the news story. Remember, radio listeners can't reread a paragraph if they don't understand. The broadcaster has one shot to get the message across, so the script must be clear and direct.
- Get to know the broadcaster who will read your news radio scripts. Each broadcaster has preferences that should be accommodated when possible.
- Always read a script aloud before it's aired. Missing words and difficult-to-say word arrangements, for example, can adversely affect the quality of a broadcast.