Scripting for Broadcast

Print journalism and broadcast differ significantly, although they also share much in common. Both disseminate information that readers and viewers can act on. But the differences lie in how the information gets disseminated, and how it is written.

News writing in print journalism is more formal and conforms to rigorous grammatical styles. Stories begin with a lede, which is an opening sentence that entices readers to become engaged in the story. Typically, the print story uses the inverted pyramid style, where the most important information in the story gets conveyed first. Broadcast news writing also uses an opening sentence to 'hook' viewers into the story, but its style takes a more dramatic structure. Where print journalism is writing for the eye, broadcast is writing for the ear, using language that is more conversational.

Before you get started with your story, it's always important to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! Have your audience in mind when you start writing. And a good starting point is to MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!

        1. Start with a clear understanding of your story
  • Imagine how you would tell the story to a friend.
  • The story should have a beginning, middle and end.

        2. Look at the visuals and listen to the sound
  • Find compelling shots that can open the story.
  • Listen for sound that can help extend the images.

        3. When writing, keep it simple
  • Write to the visuals - the words must complement the picture.
  • Write for the ear - keep it conversational, in other words, the way we speak (but better), using contractions, e.g., 'can't' instead of 'cannot.'
  • Use limited vocabulary - no Thesaurus!
  •  Use short words and short sentences to manage breath - more than 16 words can be too long. However, vary the sentence length to create rhythm.
  • One main idea (or one breath) per sentence, and avoid commas.
  • Use mostly SVO (subject>verb>object) sentences, e.g., 'The professor taught a class.' rather than, 'The class was taught by the professor.'
  • Mostly use the active voice where the subject performs the action, (A does B) rather than passive (B is done by A)., e.g., ACTIVE: 'A kangaroo mob invaded the golf course.' PASSIVE: 'The golf course was invaded by kangaroos.
  • Use the present tense to indicate immediacy, e.g., 'The President says the border issue will be fixed' rather than 'The President said the border issue will be fixed.' Use 'says' instead of 'said.'
  • Titles and attribution always come first to help the audience understand the context of WHO is saying the comment before they hear it.

        4. When editing, don't always cut SOTS and VO back-to-back

  • In some parts of the story, use natural sounds (NATS), or NAT pops between SOTS and Reporter VO to let your story "breathe."

        5. Script Structure

  • Be clear how you want to tell the story. It can be chronological or it can start with an anecdote from a person (character) who illustrates the topic.
  • Don't string information at the beginning of the story as if you writing wire copy. The opening line is a 'hook' to your audience. Use your best line to open the script. Don't give everything away in the opening line or paragraph. Tempt your audience to keep watching, revealing more information as the story unfolds.
  • Read your script out loud. Sometimes the words on the printed page don't always sound good when you first hear them.
  • Check the facts, double-check and triple-check. The story needs to be accurate and precise.

        6. Use the Two-Column script format

  • In Word, create a two column table. Table>Insert>Table and then select two columns and one row.
  • The left column is where you insert information about the VIDEO - what will be seen on screen. Include a brief description of the shot and where it can be found among the clips. Also, you can include any text information that gets superimposed on screen. Write text exactly the way it will be seen on screen.
  • The right column is where the AUDIO information is read. This is where you include the Reporter VO or TRACK, and NATS (natural sound) or even MUSIC.

Editing Workflow
Edit Terms
Adobe Premiere Guide
Fast Package Editing Instructions
Video Compression Formats