Customizing Your Content to be Seen and Heard

Article 3 min
When writing for video, television or radio, you must format the information for your listeners' ears so they can understand it the first time they hear it.

Part of your job as a military communicator is to communicate themes and messages in support of commander's intent. It is important for you to write for multiple mediums and understand that different mediums require different types of writing. Writing for visual media stories is different from writing for print or social media. Visual media stories are written to be heard, not read, by your audience.

Consider learning and applying the 6 "Cs" of writing for the ear: clear, concise, conversational, complete, current and correct. Click on the tiles to explore each element of the 6 Cs.

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The 6 Cs of Writing for the Ear

Clear

Ensure the members of your audience can understand your story the first time they hear it. Use simple, understandable language. Consider:

  • Writing to express an idea, not to impress your audience
  • Limiting each sentence to one main thought
  • Using precise language. Avoid using the words:
    • Here, there: the location might be unclear to the audience
    • Latter, former, respectively: the audience can't go back to clarify your reference
    • Not: completely alters the meaning if this word is missed
  • Checking that the video supports the script and aids in audience understanding
  • Placing quote attributions at the beginning of the sentence. This alerts the audience to who or where the information is coming from and establishes the credibility of a quote or statement.

Concise

Express your thoughts in just a few words. The shorter the better for audience engagement and memory. Consider:

  • Getting straight to the point
  • Using only essential words
  • Crafting succinct sentences by having:
    • The lead sentence include essential facts and excludes distractions (use 20 words or fewer as a guideline)
    • The following sentences contain roughly 25 words or fewer
  • Avoiding transitional words that waste valuable time (i.e. meanwhile, however, therefore, etc.)
  • Avoiding smothered verbs. These are abstract nouns that could have been a verb. Some examples are:
    • Use assume, not assumption
    • Use decide, not decision
    • Use assess, not assessment
    • Use attend, not attendance
    • Use investigate, not investigation
  • Writing in an active voice

Conversa­tional

Write the story the same way you would tell it to a friend. Writing conversationally is key to writing an effective and engaging visual or radio story script. As a DoD communicator, be mindful not to be too relaxed, either. Consider:

  • Using simple, common words
  • Using everyday language and syntax. Avoid military and technical jargon
  • Being original and avoiding clichés

Complete

Answer every question raised in your story. Don't list every fact related to the story. The audience only needs to know enough facts for the story to make sense. Consider:

  • Using your commitment statement as a reference to help keep the story focused
  • Answering the five "Ws" and "H" in your story:
    • Who is involved?
    • What happened?
    • Where did it happen?
    • When did it happen?
    • How did it happen?
    • Why did it happen? (include if known)
  • Focusing on answering questions the reader will have on learning the news and answering questions as they would come up, as you provide details while not raising questions you cannot address
  • Using a person's title and full name for the first reference. Refer to the person by last name going forward.

Current

Write timely copy - both in content and the way it sounds. Last week's events, accidents and incidents are not today's news. Consider:

  • Using present verb tenses whenever possible
    • Do not force present verb tense when past verb tense is more appropriate

Correct

Ensure your story is correct; it is the most important rule. Violating this rule can ruin your career or damage someone else's. Being untruthful, intentionally or not, can violate policy and cause greater problems for your organization. It will also create a lack of trust between you and your audience. Ensure you are:

  • Only reporting verified facts
  • Double checking facts, names, dates, locations, numbers and times