Tech & society

Writing for the ear

Developing a script for a podcast or webinar? Then check out these tips for writing for the ear.

As with all writing, scripts should be accurate and clear. However, this writing style is not as formal as that used to produce a research paper written in an academic style.

  1. Keep sentences short. 
    This tip relates to the informality of the spoken word. It’s possible for a reader to re-read a sentence if it is long and complicated. Not so easy when listening to a podcast; possible, but most folks won’t hit the rewind button. Example:

    • Do: My grandmother came to America when she was a little girl. Yesterday she told me she still remembers the first time she saw the Statue of Liberty. She said it made her cry. But I’m not sure why.
    • Don’t: My grandmother, who came to America when she was a little girl, told me yesterday that she still remembers the first time she saw the Statue of Liberty, which she said made her cry, but I’m not sure why.
  2. Use Contractions 
    This is another tip related to the informality of the spoken word.

    • Do: Use … it’s … I’ve … aren’t
    • Don’t: Use … it is … I have … are not
  3. Paraphrase rather than quote … round off statistics
    Unless your quote is an actual recording of the person who said the statement, avoid quotations. “Quotation marks” are difficult to communicate in speech. Provide essential elements of a citation. Likewise, round off large numbers.

    • Do: Say “As Henrietta Spring wrote in 2003, digital media allow us to connect with friends and family across distance more easily than prior communication channels.”
    • Don’t: Quote Henrietta and then say, Henrietta Spring, December 2003, “Digital Media and the Family,” Journal of Mediated Communication. [Although you will provide your sources in an annotated bibliography.]
    • Do: Say “ll million dollars”
    • Don’t: Say “11 million, three hundred thousand, two hundred dollars.”
  4. Write in active voice. 
    Writing in active voice is good practice for almost all writing. But it is essential when writing for the ear.

    • Do: <John damaged your car… By then, the soundtrack will have been remixed.>
    • Don’t: <Your car has been damaged… By then, we will have remixed the soundtrack.>
  5. Practice Now!
    Begin recording your voice in short segments. Read your blog posts. Read transcripts of press conferences. Listen. Practice pauses, inflection.


Original class post

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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