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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Write for the ears


Writing for broadcast is a special type of skill.  It is completely different than writing an essay or even a print story.  Broadcast syntax is an art.  The audience is primarily listening to the show, not reading it, so words must flow much more smoothly.  Sentences should be shorter and to the point.  Wordy statements lose their power and the attention of the viewer.  Naturally I am a concise writer, so wordiness isn't typically a problem for me.  Syntax is where I struggle.  When I write for the show, I hear how it sounds in my head and it works.  The problem is that it might not work for everyone else.  The only real way to know if a line is readible for an anchor and understandable for a viewer is to speak every word out loud.  I know that if it doesn't roll off the tounge the correct way, then I need to make a change.  This rule applies to copy editing other MJs and reporters' stories as well.  Oral communication is the name of the game in broadcast and if the script is distracting because of syntax then the show is in trouble.  Next week I plan on urging everyone on Team Thursday to read their writing out loud because I really think that it makes a difference.


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