Writing Copy for Podcasts
A Quick Start Guide to Writing Radio-Style News Copy
iTunes Podcast Icon
By Dr. Anthony R. Curtis
Mass Communication Department
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Audio Podcasting: Writing Copy for Podcasts
Audio podcasting requires the radio journalism style of writing. Here are the basics of how to write
and type news copy for radio broadcast and podcasts:
Type size: Larger type sizes are easier to read. Use 16-point type.
Type face: We are most accustomed to reading serif type faces. Use Times Roman or Times New
Uppercase vs. lowercase: Broadcast news copy can be typed in all capital letters or
uppercase/lowercase. Old timers used only uppercase for radio copy. The wire services still use all
caps for broadcast copy. However, we are used to reading in upper and lowercase. That means
patterns of words are easier to distinguish quickly . If both upper and lowercase letters are used, you
can use all-caps to emphasize a word. Write your script in uppercase/lowercase so you won't stumble
Page margins: Set page margins to 1.25" all the way around so you average about 10 words per
line. That should make it easy to see how many words of copy you have altogether. Set margins
flush-left so the copy for any one story will appear as a block.
Paragraphs: Paragraphing is not used in broadcast writing. Do not indent sentences in broadcast
news copy. A complete story often is one paragraph.
Hyphenation: Do not hyphenate or divide a word at the end of a line. If the whole word does not fit
on a line, drop down to the next line.
More to the story: If a story is so long it must continue on a second sheet of paper, center the word
[MORE] at the bottom of each continued page.
Sentence splitting: If a story requires more than one sheet of paper, do not split a sentence between
the pages. That makes it difficult for the reader to maintain continuity. Instead, stop short at the end of
a sentence on the first page.
Paragraph splitting: If a story requires more than one sheet of paper, do not break a paragraph at
the bottom of a page.
Numbering pages: If a story requires more than one sheet of paper, number the pages
consecutively. For instance, if the copy is three pages long, number the first page 1 of 3, and the last
page 3 of 3. Type page numbers in the upper left corner of the page.
Timing: 3 or 4 lines of copy will be take about 10 seconds to read; 7 to 8 lines will take around 30
seconds; 14 to 16 lines will take about 60 seconds.
Type the length of time it takes to read the story at the top of the page. For instance, typing :25
indicates 25 seconds of copy is on the page. Or :60 indicates one minute of copy.
A news reader averages about 2.5 words per second. Thus, a 10-second story is 25 words and a 60-
second story is 150 words.
The end: Indicate the story has ended by typing three pound signs/number signs [###] centered
beneath the copy on the last page of the story.
Rewriting newspaper copy:
Audio podcasting requires the radio journalism style of writing. Of course, newspaper stories are not
written in broadcast style so you need to be aware of the differences between print and broadcast.
Numbers: One obvious difference involves numbers. In print style, numbers can be written out to
exactitude, while on the radio numbers are reduced to two significant digits.
Every long number must be reduced to two significant digits. Round larger numbers up or down so
that they don't confuse listeners. For example, "four point nine two" becomes "four point nine," and
"628" becomes "roughly 630." In addition, the descriptive words "half" and "quarter" are generally
preferable to "point five" and "point two five."
Ages in the newspaper are written between commas after an individual's name; in broadcast style,
ages are given as adjective phrases preceding the name.
Tense: Newspaper stories also display a greater use of the past tense. Print is a distancing medium,
separating events through the filter of the written word from the immediacy of their occurrence.
Newspapers are also written hours and days before they are read, so the events described seem "old
Radio, on the other hand, has an intimate, "you-are-there" quality that is enhanced by the use of the
Newsmakers spoke to newspaper reporters ("Chancellor Carter said....") but they speak to a radio
audience ("CHANCELLOR CARTER SAYS....").
Condensing stories: Rewriting newspaper stories becomes an art of condensing.
The greatest difference between newspaper and broadcast news involves story length and detail.
Print reporters write hundreds, even thousands of words for a particular story. Few, if any, radio
stories have even a hundred words.
A radio story without an actuality is a "reader." It should run about 20 seconds at most. Get to the
heart of your story and leave the additional details out.
Attribution: Unless you actually have spoken with individuals involved in the story, you must
attribute your rewritten story to its newspaper source. The attribution generally begins the second
sentence of the script ("THE PINE NEEDLE REPORTS....").
Not only is it ethical to credit the news organization that discovered the story, but if the newspaper
gets it wrong – a not infrequent occurrence – the error and any of its consequences will generally not
fall on you.
Sentence structure: Commercial broadcasting has been around for nearly a century and radio
listeners have come to expect their newscasts to be written in a particular way. Learning about
broadcast sentence-structure is one of the foundations for developing effective skills at radio
Broadcast newswriting is supposed to sound like everyday speech.
Sentences: There are three types of sentences: simple, compound and complex.
A simple sentence contains a subject and a verb.
A compound sentence is composed of two simple sentences joined by a coordinating
conjunction ("and," "but," "or," "nor").
A complex sentence is composed of two simple sentences joined by a subordinating
conjunction (such as "when," "because," or "although").
In broadcast newswriting, simple sentences are best.
Sometimes you will use compound and complex sentences, but the clarity achieved through the use
of simple sentences usually is best.
The conjunctions "moreover," "furthermore," and "however" are words that should be avoided in
Listeners expect important news to be reported in simple sentences. They can connect the elements
of a story that is presented clearly and concisely, if they wish.
Leads: Their expectation of simple sentences is especially true of leads. If a lead begins with a
subordinating conjunction, listeners discount the story's urgency.
Leads generally should be written as simple sentences.
Relative clauses: Relative clauses begin with a relative pronoun or adverb such as "who," "which"
They provide additional information about a noun in a sentence. However. relative clauses which
interrupt the flow of the sentence should not be used in broadcast newswriting.
In a text communicated visually, a reader has the words on a page or screen to help guide him back
to the story after a detour through a relative clause. Listeners, on the other hand, do not have such a
guide and must rely on the speaker to provide information in readily understood clauses that are
concise and uninterrupted.
A sentence with an interrupting relative clause should be rewritten into two simple sentences.
Appositions: An apposition places a noun or phrase after a noun and marks it off with commas or
An apposition is like a relative clause without the relative pronoun. Long, interrupting appositions, like
interrupting relative clauses, should be avoided in broadcast newswriting.
Relative clauses and appositions can be used at the end of a sentence. This placement is especially
useful for clauses beginning with the adverb "where."
Clauses beginning with "who" or "which" are acceptable when placed at the end of a sentence, but
sometimes it may be preferable to write two simple sentences instead.
Active voice: Two common writing faults appear in all types of English writing -- the overuse of the
passive voice and of the existential "there is," "there are" construction.
Always use the active voice. Write sentences with subjects that are doing things and not subjects that
are merely receiving actions upon them.
Don't waste time stating an object's existence. Describe that object doing something.
Simple sentences with active verbs form the basis of effective radio newswriting.
Keep it simple.
Recording the podcast script
Further explanation of how to prepare and submit a podcast is at Apple’s iTunes website: