Formatting the Script

How should I format a radio script?

In prehistoric times radio stations received their news on teletypes, but the days of ALL CAPS and IBM Selectrics with “Orator” balls are over. Trust me, it is. But some of you who have never even used a typewriter before, still think radio copy should be typed in ALL CAPS. It shouldn’t. HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A BOOK OR AN ONLINE ARTICLE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS? I didn’t think so. Instead, use a font that’s easy to read, like Arial, or Calibri, or Times Roman. (Exception to the rule: use all caps for emphasis) And, please, don’t use “script.” Save that for wedding announcements. Nobody wants to read copy in “longhand.”

Here’s another tip: Add line numbers to your scripts. It’s the easiest way reference a line when you’re in a session and making changes on the fly. I also highly recommend that you don’t spell out numbers or websites. Performers much prefer “189” or “1-89” to “one hundred and eighty-nine.” If it’s a large number, you may want to spell out a portion of it to indicate the way you want it read (i.e. 300 thousand, 600 hundred and 95), but as a rule of thumb we all prefer to read numbers vs. words. And since we’re on the subject of making copy easy to read, everyone’s familiar with URLs so there’s no need to write “dot-com.” Trust me, it’s a lot easier to read “.com” or “.org.” Finally, I encourage you to double space your lines. Once again, it makes it easier to read and it gives you space to write in changes made during recording.

How to time your radio script

Step one:
Invest in a stopwatch and hold it in your hand. Yes, there are stopwatch apps, but it’s a lot easier to start, stop, and re-start a real stopwatch. And they’re cheap so there’s no excuse for not having one.

Step two: read the copy aloud – multiple times – starting and stopping when you make mistakes – until you have an accurate time. Reading it in “your head” doesn’t count, nor does reading it under your breath. Speak it.

A word about Word Count: It’s irrelevant. If anything, it’s better to count syllables. But it’s much better and simpler to just read it aloud. It takes less than a minute.

A line about Line Count: It used to be that 8 lines was about :30 and 16 lines was about :60. But that assuming certain margins, and what if it’s a dialogue spot? Then what? Again, just read it out loud.

What happens when you don’t accurately time your spot? You look like a fool in the recording session when you’ve written :39 seconds of copy and are scrambling to cut something and then get client approval. Really? 39 seconds? It happens more often than you think.

One final note: I recommend putting a revision # and date on the script so that everyone’s on the same page, literally.