|By Laura Bridgwater
Just as you would polish a written piece before e-mailing it to your editor, you can polish a piece for the radio before recording it.
One of the best ways to polish your script is to practice reading it aloud. Read your script to anyone who will listen, from friends and family to the cat if you need to. Read it to yourself until you are comfortable with it.
While you are reading aloud, listen for the answers to the following questions:
Do you pause in the middle of a sentence to take a breath? If so, go back to the keyboard. Unless you are William Faulkner, chances are your sentence is too long. Rewrite it as two shorter sentences. This is a good rule for other kinds of writing, too.
Can you read your script without stumbling over certain phrases? Some phrases that work in print become tongue twisters when spoken. When you find these stumbling blocks, it’s better to reword than try to master them. Invariably, those glitches will trip you up when you are recording.
Does your script sound conversational? If you write mostly for print markets, you may need to tweak your script to make it sound more conversational. For example, the transition “For example” works well in a written piece, but “I was thinking about this…” sounds more conversational in commentary.
Do you know the correct pronunciation of all the words in your text? When in doubt, check an online dictionary like dictionary.com.The beauty of online dictionaries is that they have audio clips. You won’t need your special phonics decoder ring to figure out the pronunciation key.
Have you made a recording of yourself? It’s worth the effort no matter how much you might detest the sound of your voice. When you play back your recording, take the pillow off your head and listen critically.
Do you sound as if you are underlining every other word? If so, this is Shatner-esque and you should stop. Instead, pause naturally at the ends of your sentences. Also listen to whether you clear your throat or make other distracting sounds. Unless, of course, you are still reading to the cat. The cat might like the hairball sound effects.
Ultimately, writing for radio means translating the written word into the spoken word. The key to sounding good is to read as if you weren’t reading. And that comes, like everything else in life, with practice.
Laura Bridgwater is a freelance writer and radio commentator at KUNC. To listen to her commentary go to http://www.kunc.org and click on tapes and transcripts. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Writing for Radio: Polishing Your Script-The Read-Aloud HandbookPublished April 22, 2009 Laura Bridgwater , Writing for Radio
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