Conversational Advice / Writing for Radio
As we’re writing for the ear, we need to grab the listener's attention straightaway. We also have to keep their attention. Beginner presenters who translate newspaper articles tend to write their links in a written style. Writing this way, however, doesn’t work for radio. For radio, we need to write in a conversational manner. Our listeners need to understand the information first time around. Unlike a book, in live radio, they can’t go back to the point again.
Try to keep your presenter links as natural as possible. Think about it as telling a story to a friend in a pub. Write in a style that sounds relaxed. Use the same words and phrases that you’d normally use in everyday life. Use contractions. Write “don’t” instead of “do not” etc.
Practice reading your links aloud. Actors do this with their lines. Their goal is to make their lines sound conversational and natural. For us as radio presenters, we have the same purpose. Therefore, when you practice reading your links aloud, consider if it sounds like you.
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Use Visual Words
Let your listeners imagine. Your links need to help your listeners picture images, people, and places, etc. Use descriptive, describing words.
Keep it Focused
Long winding sentences packed with words etc. don’t work well in music radio. Think in short chunks and keep it varied. Listen to the professionals. Study how they're presenting their information.
Present tense tends to give the listeners a sense of familiarity and intimacy. It’s not always possible to write everything in the present tense, however, keep this in mind when scripting your links. Try not to bounce between different tenses in your link, i.e. moving from present tense to past tense, then back to present tense again, etc. Of course, this is not always possible. It's just a suggestion to consider if you feel your link is not working.
Don’t just give the facts of a story. Ask yourself, why does this story matter? Can you learn something from this story? Can you relate something from this story to your real life or your listener's real life? You don’t have to give an in-depth breakdown of every single point. However, do consider moving the story on to another point. If you do this, it can be more interesting than just reporting the story alone.
Dave from Dartford fell out of a window onto twenty boxes of eggs. Lame egg joke - into song.
Dave from Dartford fell out of a window onto twenty boxes of eggs. Lame egg joke - link to a point in real life, which the listeners can relate to - move the story onward - tell us what we learned from the story- into song.
Use the active voice. Lecture 10 on the radio presenting course covers this point. Use verbs that “kick!”
Try not to break up your subjects and verbs. (This point is geared more to news writing, but it’s worth noting.)
Bernard Stockton, who is the head trainer of We Rock AM, says We Rock AM is rocking.
We Rock AM head trainer, Bernard Stockton, says the station is rocking.
Bernard Stockton is the head trainer of We Rock AM. He says the station is rocking.
By the time you get to the end of the first sentence, Bernard Stockton gets lost. The next two sentences make the information clearer.
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"What's that you say? You still love me? Well, I love you too!"
Ashley Cowan runs the Online Radio School where he tutors in radio presenting and media interviewing techniques. He was a BBC World Service, Radio studio manager for nine years. He was also the station manager for Radio Kings, the hospital radio station for Kings College Hospital. Other crimes include being the training manager for K2K Radio & Whitechapel AM.
As a radio presenter, he's hosted radio shows on three FM stations. That was back in the day when FM radio was a big deal. The poor radio stations that had to put up with his brand of terrible comedy were: Radio DÅB, FLR 107.3 FM, and City FM. Radio DÅB had 100,000 listeners! Woo!
When he's not writing about himself in the third person, then he was also a community radio DJ at Radio Kings, TGR Sound, Sydenham Radio, and Croydon Radio.
He once did production work for Total Rock.com. That was a fun station with a cool owner and a great broadcast team! Brown fizzy water often accompanied the broadcasts!
In more of his spare time, he's London Irish (so he likes a beer). He's recently created an online "Fingerpicking for Guitar" course. There he teaches the art of fingerpicking for... erm...guitar. Students can learn twenty different fingerpicking styles for their chords.
If you'd like him to listen to one of your shows and offer feedback, then click here.
is an ex BBC, radio studio manager, and the ex manager of Radio Kings, the hospital radio station for King's College Hospital. He's presented on three FM stations and waaay too many community stations.