a radio news story should be perfectly clear to avoid
Avoid jamming too many thoughts or numbers into
one sentence. Generally, sentences that are more than 25
words contain more than one thought and should be
rewritten into separate sentences. The same principle
applies to dependent and independent clauses. They are
often very cumbersome, so write them as separate
sentences. Commonly accepted literary techniques, un-
usual words and complex phrases, also tend to obscure
sentence meaning and you should avoid the use of such.
In broadcast writing, simple words say it best.
Choose words that everyone will understand the
announcer as well as the listener. Do not ignore colorful
or descriptive words. However, steer clear of flowery
phrases and trite expressions that simply take up time
and are of no value. Avoid slang and always translate
military, technical, legal and foreign terms into simple
You have concise copy when all unnecessary words
have been trimmed away and only those words essential
to convey your thoughts remain.
It cannot be overemphasized that broadcast writing
is writing for the ear. Listeners do not have the
opportunity of rehearing your copy, so your sentences
should be direct and crystal clear. If your copy is long
and involved, you put a strain on the listener and hinder
comprehension. This does not mean broadcast writing
should be kept at a fifth grade level but given the
choice of being complex or simple, you should choose
the latter. Your obligation is to put information into
meaningful terms that the average audience will
understand, and more important, want to hear.
For the broadcast story to be complete, you must
include in it at least four of print journalisms five Ws.
Obviously, you will normally state what happened in
your lead sentence. Then you will tell to whom it
happened, when it happened and where it happened.
Why and how generally are not critical, although to be
complete, some stories will require this information.
Like good conversation, broadcast writing is
informal and free-flowing. Write the way you talk. Let
the story tell itself. This may sound easy, but it will take
some effort in the beginning. A common pitfall is to
write a story as it may have been required for an English
composition or a print journalism assignment.
Broadcast copy is read aloud by the announcer. It is not
read by the listener.
The twofold objective of the conversational tone is
that first, it allows the announcer to pick up the drift of
the story and second, it makes the copy sound right to
A good broadcast writer listens to the story being
written. When you have finished writing your copy, take
it out of the printer and read it aloud to make sure it
sounds conversational. Make sure there are no
hard-to-pronounce words or combinations of words that
are awkward to the ear. Rid your copy of words that
might be unfamiliar to your listeners.
If your story is not current, you do not have hard
news. News of a perishable nature is usually hard news.
If you have a story of immediate news value, you should
expedite its completion and delivery to the media. By
the same token, if there are new facts or circumstances
relevant to your initial release, an update of the initial
story should be provided (and marked as an update).
This will help ensure currency. It is also helpful if the
new or changed elements of the story are identified to
reduce possible confusion with information in the
original release. You will feel the pressure of meeting
deadlines, but remember your credibility is on the line.
The hallmark of journalism as a writing art either
print or broadcast is the accurate presentation of
facts. Your finished product must correspond accurately
with the facts of the story. In the field you will follow
every possible lead to get the facts as well as report them.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Recognize the
format used in broadcast copy.
Normally, when you write copy for radio, you start
with a general what happened lead followed by a body
of significant facts. This body of information does not
have to include all the facts of the story only the most
important ones. Radio writing is different from
newspaper writing, because the most common
newspaper lead is the summary lead (using the five Ws