October 5, 2016

Strong, clear writing is the backbone of any script. If your story doesn’t make sense to your audience, they will quit watching. Here are some guidelines when you are writing a broadcast script.

  • Read your story out loud. Even if you read it softly, read as if you were saying the story on air. See if it would make sense to someone hearing it for the first time.
  • Avoid jargon. Police use such phrases as “fled on foot” or “lacerations,” but you don’t have to include jargon in your script. A story should sound as though you were speaking to someone in conversation. You honor journalism’s standards of clarity when you translate jargon into simple, everyday language.
  • Use active voice. Think “who did what?” to create active, strong sentences. Scripts written in passive voice can be less interesting to your audience, they are awkward to read, and they tend to be longer.
  • Write to your video. Video enriches the story your viewers see. Use it to put your audience at the scene and then use the script to explain what they are not seeing.
  • Hook your audience. When you’re writing a tease or a lead, ask: Will this make people want to stay around for this story? Does it give too much of the story away?

Taken from Build Your Career in TV Broadcasting, a self-directed course developed by Reel Media Group at Poynter NewsU.

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
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