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Basic Rules for Radio Writing

With thanks to Susan Boyd Bell

Communications Studies Department

Auckland Institute of Technology






Write accurately, impartially.


Confine the whole story to one page if possible, but not at the expense of well-spaced presentation. If you need a second page, start it with a new par. Don't overrun a par from one page to the next.


Make each sentence a new paragraph.




Write simply. (Avoid parenthetical clauses, no awkward sentence constructions; don't clutter with details; avoid pedantic construction).


Write with clarity of meaning, so that the newsreader and listeners will be left in no doubt.


Write English as it's spoken, not as it's normally written for silent reading.


Avoid strings of adjectives. They're often hard to read aloud in one breath, and they take the listener's mind away from the main point.


Avoid lists of figures. They're hard to read aloud and even harder on the listener.




Make sure your copy is cleanly typed. Retype after making alterations.


Triple space between lines.


Use conversational (not slangy) English. Contractions of verbs help make it conversational (e.g. It's been established - not It has been established. You're going there - not You are going there).


Don't use quotation marks, and don't use I or we unless it means the person reading the item or the radio station.


Don't type capitals, except where capitals are normally used.


Avoid words that are hard to sight-read (like communique).


Spell names as they sound, if they're unusual.


Use first names instead of initials.


Avoid alliteration.


Don't use the word that unnecessarily.


Don't use abbreviated form of nay word that has to be read in full New Zealand instead of N.Z.).


September the 28th not September 28.


Spell out numbers if more than two figures - e.g. 1048 = one thousand and 48. 148 = one hundred and 48.


Read your copy back to yourself aloud (as if you're the newsreader). Simplify it as necessary, then retype.




Write briefly, concisely - (avoid flamboyance, verbosity and unnecessary adjectives).


Generally speaking, first sentences of not more than 18 words. Other sentences not much longer - vary length.


Set the scene quickly.


Avoid presenting more than one main idea in one sentence.


Use active verbs wherever possible - not passive.


Don't use press-style reported speech unnecessarily. Where possible, put verbs of saying into present tense. If you have good reason to put them in the past tense, put the other verbs in the present tense where it doesn't alter the meaning.


Don't use the most important word right at the beginning of the first sentence (Police in Milan, not Milan Police) unless you're repeating it later. It's not too easy for listeners to miss the first word, unless it happens to be one that's pronounced strongly.


Use slight repetition as a memory jogger (After the first mention of, say, the Auckland University Students' Association write the Students' Association on one occasion later in the story, instead of merely the association.



Note these differences:


Press style: The Mayor, Mr Les Mills said today that rates would be struck on April 15.


Radio style: Mayor, Les Mills says rates will be struck on April the 15th.


OR if it's necessary to say when he said it.


Mayor Colin Kay said today rates will be struck on April the 15th.


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