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Writing words to be heard by the ear is quite different from words to be read by the eye. The layout of sentences, their order and construction has to be thought through in order to be totally clear and unambiguous at their first hearing. The listener does not have the possibility of re-hearing something. It must make sense first time, and this places a special responsibility on the radio writer. So whether we are writing a 15-minute talk, aone-minute voice piece or a cue to a recorded interview, the basic µrules¶ of radio writing ± and the pitfalls ± need to be simply stated.
Who are you talking to? .
. talk to your listener. Avoid talking about your listener. Who are you talking to? The listener comes first.
What do you want to say? .
. What do you want to leave with him or her? Visualize the effect that each will have on the listener. It¶s important to have a strong opening ± get the listener¶s attention at the start.
The Storage of Talk .
Delivering a script properly is presentation ± the art of retrieving talk out of storage. . We need to write conversational language. The best script is a fairly crude and imperfect form of storage.
Special care is to be taken with words that sound alike. . Simple vs complex. These are the building blocks of our meaning.
Structure and Signposting .
Radio is transient. µSo much for the selection of staff. . Signposting is the very useful technique in any oral communication of saying where you are in a talk. The ending of the talk is what you will leave with the listener. and where you are going next. Be logical in the order you put things and be interesting. For example. let¶s now look at their training.
Pictures and Stories .
Remember the visual nature of radio. turn them into evocative anecdotes and metaphor . stays in the mind and your listener will better remember what you said. Instead of strings of facts or concepts. . Relevant visual aid.
Double Meanings .
Speak out loudly to someone to allow for correction. so can phrases and sentences. Punctuation shows you how to read. . In the same way that word sounds can have more than one meaning. Avoid the double entendre.
The Script .
Thus.We speak at about 180 words a minute ± three words a second is a good guide for a bulletin or scripted talk. A single typed line is 3±4 seconds. . making a double-spaced page of A4 ± 27 lines or 270 words ± about one and a half minutes. a 30-second voice report needs about 90 words. and a threeminute piece for the Breakfast programme about 540. The computer counting of words is extremely useful.
foreign or unusual names may be given their phonetic pronunciation in brackets. Difficult words. Clear paragraphs should be used to separate distinct thoughts or items. Its purpose is to tell us what to say. above all. Each page ends with a full stop. . be clear and easy to read. so that nothing gets left out and it runs to time. in what order. A script on the page or on the screen should.
stories to tell. Even the best ad libbers are better with an aidemémoire for names. points to make. and developing the well-crafted memorable phrase. expressing ourselves more accurately. Preparing a script provides the opportunity of thinking more deeply. . adding substance.
.Our job is not to impress but to express.