How to Compose & Format an Audio Script for Broadcast

How To 6 min
Follow these steps to compose and format a single-column video script using a template.

Media products such as video and radio stories are written to be heard, not read. Writing for the ear is key to effectively communicating a media news story. Mastering writing for the ear is critical because your audience's first time seeing your news story may be the only time they see it. Your audience cannot go back and reread something that they've missed.

The following steps walk you through creating a single-column script using the Video Script Formatting Template. This format is commonly used for creating simple video news stories or radio news scripts. A two-column script format is typically used for complex videos such as features and public service announcements (PSAs).

Attention!
Check with your unit to ensure there are no further local policies or guidelines for this task.

This is an example of a completed template filled in using sample script content. Photo by DINFOS PAVILION Team
Screenshot of completed video script template filled in with sample content.
This is an example of a completed template filled in using sample script content.
Photo by: DINFOS PAVILION Team
VIRIN: 201013-D-PA656-0001

Use these guidelines to format your script to help effectively communicate themes and messages in support of your commander's intent.

Text Formatting

  • Use Courier New 12-point font to be read from a screen or as a printed out script. Courier is a fixed-pitch font, so every character and space is exactly the same width. This is important for estimating runtime. Using Courier, one page equals approximately one minute of runtime.
  • Write in ALL CAPS and double space the script. Double spacing allows for easier reading. This formatting also makes preparing for 508-compliance close-captioning easier.

Numbers

  • Limit the overuse of numbers. Too many numbers can be confusing or difficult to follow.
  • If using a lot of numbers is required, add graphic elements to help reinforce the message.
  • Round off numbers like percentages or monetary amounts, unless the rounding creates an error. For example, if a survey response item was 98.6%, you should say "almost 99% of people" agreed with the proposal.
  • NEVER round off casualty figures.

Titles and Names

  • Use the person's title and full name on the first reference. Type uncommon or hard to pronounce names phonetically in the script. For example, type AL-AH-HON-DRAY instead of ALEJANDRE. A title helps establish your subject matter expert's (SME) position and adds credibility. For example, if you were reporting on city council corruption, write "Mayor Joseph Quimby denied reports that…"
  • Refer to federal officials by title or Mr./Mrs./Ms. The President of the United States should be addressed as "President" on the first reference.

Quotes

Your audience can't see quotation marks. If you must use them, it's best to attribute and paraphrase the information.

  • Place the attribution upfront to identify the speaker before the quote. This makes it easier for your audience to understand who said what, and affirm the quote's credibility. For example, don't write, "The mayor needs to be taught a lesson!' said Councilman Ned Flanders." Instead, say, "City councilman Ned Flanders said the mayor needs to be taught a lesson."
  • Avoid using direct quotes whenever possible. Paraphrase the quote or alert your listener that what you are saying is someone else's opinion, not your own.
  • Do not write the words quote and end quote for voicing in your script. These phrases make the copy non-conversational. Use clarifying phrases such as, "in his own words …"

Abbreviations

Abbreviations are not generally used in video scriptwriting because they can be easily misunderstood, especially when the viewer only has one chance to hear them.

  • If possible, avoid abbreviations. For example, it's better to say New York City instead of N-Y-C.
  • If you do need to use an abbreviation, separate each letter with hyphens. For example, write Y-M-C-A instead of Y.M.C.A.

Acronyms

Acronyms are words formed from the first or first few letters of a series of words. Some common acronyms include NATO, NASA and OPSEC. Be aware: acronyms can clutter a story and dilute the meaning of the story.

  • Use only common acronyms in a script.
  • If you use a less-common acronym in your script, state the whole name fully on the first reference, then follow it with the acronym. For example, say "Defense Information School, or DINFOS," on the first reference, then use "DINFOS" in subsequent uses.

A script header provides a brief synopsis of the story. It includes the script author, date, title, page number, commitment statement and runtime (RT).

Image of the header section of the template filled in with sample script content.
Image of the header section of the template filled in with sample script content.
Photo by: DINFOS PAVILION Team
VIRIN: 201013-D-PA656-0002

The upper-left header includes:

  • Rank and first and last name
  • Page numbers in “X of X” format
  • Commitment in subject-verb-object order

The upper-right header includes:

  • Story date
  • Story title
  • Total story runtime, including sound bite. To calculate the runtime, count each line of narration as four seconds. Count half a line or less as two seconds. Add the actual time of the sound bite from the Subject Matter Expert (SME), if known.

The bottom of the header includes dots and slashes to help time your script. Use the dots and slashes to estimate the runtime of the script without having to record it to get the runtime.

Use eight dots, followed by a forward slash.

  • Each slash represents about a half-second of reporter narration.
  • The forward slash indicates the four-second mark, which is about a whole line of narration. A half a line is about two seconds. The forward slash is assumed after the final dot.

The dots and slashes can help a new videographer or broadcaster learn to write the correct amount of copy every time. For example, if you need a script that is 90 seconds and it includes a 15-second soundbite, you need to write 75 seconds of narration. That equates to about 18.75 lines of script to get in the ballpark with the length. Without this estimate, you would have to read it out loud to time it.

The lead introduces the story and is read by the narrator. It is the first and best chance to hook the viewer to stay tuned to watch your work. Writing a good lead for your story will help your audience care about the story and draw them in. Use a fact from the story to hook the viewer into watching it. It is not enough to give only the reporter's name as the introduction to the story.

Image of the story lead section of the template filled in with sample script content.
Image of the story lead section of the template filled in with sample script content.
Photo by: DINFOS PAVILION Team
VIRIN: 201013-D-PA656-0003

The body of the story begins with the reporter opening.

  • The first line of the story from the reporter delivers more details about the topic. The next sentences further explain the topic and support the storyline.
  • Include identifying information the first time the reporter's lines appear in the script. This includes rank, if appropriate, and abbreviated for the branch of service), first name and last name.

Image of the reporter opening section of the template filled in with sample script content.
Image of the reporter opening section of the template filled in with sample script content.
Photo by: DINFOS PAVILION Team
VIRIN: 201013-D-PA656-0004

The body of the story also includes the SME soundbite.

  • Include fully-transcribed soundbites in parentheses. Remember, items in parentheses are visual cues for the reporter and are not read by the reporter.
  • Include the runtime for your soundbite in parentheses and the identifying information the first time the SME appears in the script. Include the SME's abbreviated rank, their first and last name and their title as it relates to the context of the story.

Image of the soundbite section of the template filled in with sample soundbite transcript.
Image of the soundbite section of the template filled in with sample soundbite transcript.
Photo by: DINFOS PAVILION Team
VIRIN: 201013-D-PA656-0005

The end of the story adds one new detail or element before concluding the story, answers all questions raised in the story and summarizes the story for the audience.

To conclude the story, include the standard lockout containing the following information:

  • Service (if applicable)
  • Rank (informal, if appropriate for your service)
  • Name
  • Location of the story

Image of the end of story section of the template filled in with sample script content.
Image of the end of story section of the template filled in with sample script content.
Photo by: DINFOS PAVILION Team
VIRIN: 201013-D-PA656-0006

Discover More You May Like

View All How To