Eric May – Media Consultant




Writing for news

What is our prime tool for telling stories besides pictures?


Writing is our prime tool. But, writing for broadcast news isn’t like any other kind of writing. It’s not at all like writing for print.


The key difference: writing for broadcast is “heard” by the audience, not “read.”


Broadcast writing is “for the ear.”

That means many things that don’t work very well in print writing work extremely well when writing for broadcast.


One of the first things: writing for broadcast has to be clear, simple (not simplistic), and easy for everyone to understand.


That's what the phrase “conversational writing” really means. It means, write the way people speak. And if you do that, your audience will hear you better.


That’s another reason why writing for broadcast favors shorter forms, less complexity and “word play.”


Here are some tips for effective broadcast writing:

• One thought per sentence
• Short
• Clear
• Concise
• Conversational / jargon free


Strong lead (first sentence) / strong close (last sentence)

The first sentence of your story and the last sentence of your story are related. Make sure your first line is a strong one. And make your last line of variation of your first line. That’s a very effective technique in broadcast writing. Audiences “get it.”


“Word Play”

Unlike in print writing, “word play”, the twisting, turning or upending of common words and phrases works very well in broadcast. Take a common phrase, proverb or saying and turn it around or twist the wording to make an effective technique that grabs the attention of the audience. It's especially effective when the first phrase of your story, and the last phrase are identical, except the last phrase is slightly changed (to reflect the change in the story.)


Descriptive writing

Defined simply as describing in words what the audience is seeing on the screen. It’s an especially useful technique at the beginning of stories, when you want to draw the audience's attention to something that seems unclear, or that is unfolding before their very eyes.



• Viewers tend to be distracted

• In broadcast writing, description, clarity, conversational style,  and connecting the first and last elements of your narration are powerful techniques to reinforce visual content and the overall impact of your story on your audience.