Advanced Video Camera and Editing


The brain processes information differently when the information is heard rather than read. Readers have the ability to go back and re-read sections of a print story that they did not immediately understand. But in broadcast, audiences have only one chance to understand the story. There's a certain simplicity to broadcast writing that has more in common with the spoken language rather than to literature. The words are written the way we speak, but avoid colloquialisms or slang, which can often sound cliche. 

Write as you talk and talk as you write. Many TV reporters can be found at their keyboards muttering. That's because the words they write need to be spoken; the words need to sound conversational. When writing a broadcast script, read the words out loud.

As you write, remember the following:

  •  Try to use one idea, or one breath per sentence.
  • Strengthen your sentences by using active verbs, using the present tense (active voice), avoiding passive sentences. 
  • Give emphasis to certain words. One way to do so is to place the most important word at the end of the sentence.
  • Keep paragraphs short. Avoid wordy sentences by nuking the adjectives and other unnecessary modifiers. Remember -- write for the ear, not for the eyes.
  • Add transitions to keep the story flowing. Connect the ideas by writing to the sound bite (SOTS). For example, you can start an idea in the reporter track and then let the sound bite finish it.
  • When you include SOTS, make sure to keep them short. The average length of a SOT is between 7 and 12 seconds.
  • Avoid redundancy.
  • Attribution goes at the beginning of a person's name.

Remember, what you write needs to be clear to audiences the first time they hear it. They don't have the luxury like they do in reading print to go back and re-listen.

The writing needs to be understood the first time the audience hears it.

Jargon and Cliches

When sources use jargon, or “officialese” it then falls onto the journalist to filter it out. Also, lose the clichés. They only work once in a blue moon if you can weave them into the writing in a clever way. But ordinarily, clichés are corny and lead to lazy writing.


Sound Bites (or Sound-on-Tape, SOTS)

You need to write into the SOT. First, intro the person we are about to hear from. Use a SOT that doesn't last longer than 15 seconds. SOTS can be placed into two categories: informational and emotional.

  • Informational SOT - usually comes from officials and experts 
  • Emotional SOT - comes from people who are living the story.

Find the sound bites that tell the story best.

The Golden Rule of choosing a SOT: if you can say it better, then it's not a SOT.

Write to the visuals

It’s important to understand the importance of attention-grabbing images and how you may use them to “hook” your audience. Before you wrap up the production work, ask yourself if you have a good opening and closing shot.

Before you even open your editing software, write the script.

Write the script before editing. The script is your guide to editing.

The Ending (Resolution)

Many journalists get stuck on how to end the story. One thing you should never do is end a story just because you’ve run out of things to say. Also, never end the story by summarising what we’ve learned. Instead, end with a strong statement that makes the audience think a bit.

When you come up with a structure always break it down to the beginning, middle and end. However, the beginning and end could be thought of as bookends if you open and close the story with the same character.

Don’t start writing the script until you know how the story will end.

For further tips on writing, check out the video below from BBC Academy: Journalism.

Television is about writing to pictures
BBC College of Journalism - Writing to Pictures