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On-Camera Coach by Karin M. Reed

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CHAPTER 9 Writing for the Spoken Word

If you go into a TV newsroom, chances are, you would see a bunch of people talking to themselves. No, they haven't lost their minds, at least most of the time. What they're doing is writing—out loud.

Anything a broadcast journalist writes is intended to be read aloud, so any reporter or anchor worth his or her salt approaches a script by following this rule:

  • Write the way you speak.

The Challenges of Reading Written Prose Aloud

Most prose is intended to never be heard. Instead, it is meant to be read silently—consumed, comprehended, and committed to memory without ever being spoken word for word.

Stylistically, the majority of us have never had to consider how challenging it might be to verbalize our writing. A writer's focus, understandably, is on communicating his or her message in full. If a sentence is three lines long, it's not a problem as long as it follows the proper rules of grammar and includes all the information the writer wishes to convey. It is a problem, however, if someone has to try to say that sentence out loud and can barely make it to the end without gasping for air.

As a moderator of webcasts, the most challenging part of my job is the introduction of the esteemed panelists. Often, they come from academia and have the requisite litany of degrees, achievements, and awards. Their bios read as if they were lifted from their institutions' web sites, which they usually are. Few, if any, are reworked for readability. Consequently, ...

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