Writing for listeners
When writing a script for the radio, you should always bear one thing in mind: you are writing for listeners, not for readers. Readers can re-read a sentence, skip a paragraph, read at their own appropriate speed, listeners can’t!
Audio texts have to be well presented, logically structured and easy to understand. If listeners stumble over unfamiliar words, lose their attention or are distracted for a moment, much of the message will be lost.
Audio scripts are not literature. In radio, simplicity wins. Simple words, clear short sentences and a logical structure are necessary to get information across. Radio scripts should be informal, direct and polite. When you write your script and when you present it on the air, imagine that you are talking to one individual listener - your neighbour, your friend or your aunt. Think of how you would tell them the information which you are about to give. Think of that one concrete person. Talk as if you were addressing just that one person. You will discover that your presentation will be much more direct and animated.
Radio language should be very close to spoken language. Write as you would speak. However, this does not mean that you can slip into colloquial slang (although some colloquial language can be dropped in where appropriate). When writing your script, you should always know what language is appropriate for your target group. You need also to keep in mind what your listeners’ religious, moral and ethnic sensibilities are. What words are taboo? Carelessness can cause great harm and damage to your image and credibility.
The structure of a script
Imagine that you have to take your listeners by the hand and lead them through the topic on a straight path, without wandering off to the right or left. For your manuscript this means:
- a strong introduction, catching the listeners’ attention,
- then add the main facts, describe the background and further details,
- and finally end with a conclusion and/or an outlook.
What your script should look like
- Only write on one side of the paper (avoids rustling when recording)
- Leave generous space between the lines (to add pronunciation and intonation marks over or under the words)
- Make clear paragraphs - this visual aid will show you at a glance where to pause and take a breath
- Write legibly (so the reader does not stumble over certain words or phrases that are hard to read, or over unreadable corrections) - better yet, type up the final script
- Read your text out loud while writing and you will find out immediately if the script "works" and will avoid words that are hard to pronounce. This will also help you to check the recording length.
Speaking in front of the microphone
You chose the right format for your topic, you wrote a comprehensible and clearly structured text – now you have to present it with your voice in an attractive manner.
- Reread the text several times before recording to become familiar with it.
- Conserve your voice, don’t stress it with tobacco smoke, alcohol or shouting.
- Before reading, stretch your body as you would before taking exercises.
- Also massage your face, neck and shoulders; open your mouth widely; massage your lips with your tongue; relax by vibrating your lips against each other (as children do).
- Speak in your natural, undisguised voice; don’t exaggerate or perform in a "wannabe"-voice.
- There are two rules for emphasizing words: 1. Emphasize words (usually: nouns) that are outstandingly important in the text; 2. Out of these words only emphasize what is new in the text. If you stick to these rules and the less you emphasize, the more you will sound competent and credible.
- Try to relax when reading; adjust the setting in your studio to make it as comfortable for you as possible.
- In case of a slip of the tongue, reread the whole sentence (or even start with the sentence before, you can cut it out when editing). But take a breath before starting, even several! Don’t hurry.
- Ask friends for their feedback on your presentation. Appreciate their views – your friends are your listeners!