The Split Page
Avoiding Split Words and Sentences
Rewriting Wire Copy
Reading your copy aloud
Avoiding information overload
The way of writing broadcast news story is
different from that of other writing formats.
In a broadcast news story BREVITY is
CHERISHED, holding the audience’s attention
is vital, and ACCURACY is DOMINANT.
Stories last no more than 30sec, while some
bumps and teasers are a quick five seconds.
Even more intimidating for broadcasters is
that they have but one opportunity to unveil
the story; unlike print media, the consumer
cannot go back and reread the story.
The broadcast industry’s style of news writing
deals with how to attribute quotes, round off
numbers, avoid clichés, and a number of
The identification of every page of the news
Slugs are placed in the upper left-hand corner
of the page.
It includes a one or two-word description of
It also includes the date, the time of the
newscast, and the writer’s initials.
Slugs are important because they allow the
writer, producers, anchors, directors, and a
variety of people involved in putting newscast
together to locate a particular story in the
A TV script is divided into two vertical stations
and is known as split page.
All technical instructions and identification of
video and graphics appear in the left potion of
the split page, while the script to be read by the
anchor or reporter appears in the right column
along with sound byte out cues and times.
If there is not enough room on a line of copy to
complete a word, the entire word must be
carried over to the next line.
Words should not be hyphenated.
Part of a sentence should not be carried over
from one page to another.
Forcing anchors to jump from the bottom of
one page to the top of the next invites
It cannot be stressed too often that writers
must avoid anything that increases the
chance that anchors will stumble over copy.
If a sentence cannot be completed on a page,
it should begin on the top of the next page.
Type the word MORE at the bottom of the
page so the anchors know that there is more
to the story on the next page.
The punctuations in broadcast journalism and the
punctuations in taught in an English class may not be
Commas in BR indicates a pause, and not exactly for
Some writers use a dash to indicate a pause, but
dashes should be used sparingly, usually to indicate
Do not use an ellipsis to indicate a pause or as a
signal that you have eliminated part of a
Never use semicolon.
Capitalize words that anchors should
emphasize. E.g. NOT.
Some news rooms prefer the copy to be written
in ALL CAPS.
The essence of rewriting news stories from wire
services is in relaying the relevant information as
concisely as possible.
The prime source for information in the
newsroom is the wire service. The stories offered
may be far too long for programs, thus
prompting a quick rewrite.
One strategy is to read the story from the wire copy,
digest it, and then discard the copy. Then rewrite the
story based on what you remember.
You may find it difficult to surrender the wire copy and
rely on memory only but that is the only way to be
certain that you rewrite newspaper-style into
conversational broadcast copy.
It means writing for the ear.
Broadcast copy must be written clearly and
Thoughts must be expressed quickly with
brief, crisp, declarative sentences.
The copy must be aimed at ordinary
people, therefore using words that are easy to
Determines when words should be
contracted, which words should be
emphasized, how clear the sentences are,
and how well the copy flows from sentence to
The ear, not the eye, is the best judge of wellwritten broadcast copy.
There may also be a case of poor sentence
structure or phrasing or you may encounter a
situation like this:
The school superintendent says
the best that can be offered in
the veteran teachers finally
mail this week, almost half of
the new teachers’ contracts are
this tight budget year. When
received the paperwork in the
them promptly resigned.
Often, copy that is difficult to understand
contains too much information in any one
For broadcast, we must create sentences that
can be easily understood by the listener.
The Energy Department proposes to
spend $2.4 billion next year and up
to $3.7 billion in each of the following
four years to bring the nation’s
paralyzed nuclear weapon
production plants into compliance
with environmental and safety laws,
according to Energy Secretary
The Energy Department wants to spend
almost two and one-half billion dollars next
year to improve the nation’s nuclear
production plants. The funds would be used
to bring the paralyzed plants into
compliance with environmental and safety
laws. Energy Secretary Walter Gregg says
the government is willing to spend almost 15
billion dollars over the next four years to
continue the cleanup and safety checks at
the nuclear weapon production plants.
Newscasts alert the audience to events that
are expected to happen in the future.
The information should be as specific as
The President is expected to leave the White House in
the next 15 minutes or so for Andrews Air Force Base,
where he’ll board All Force One for his trip to London.
At any moment now, members of the United Nations
Security Council will consider new proposals on the crisis
in the Middle East. We were told a few minutes ago that
members were already beginning to arrive at the
Security Council chamber.
Whenever you use a specific time reference,
such as tonight or a few minutes ago, place
the reference as close as possible to the verb
whose action it describes.
It is essential to know how to time copy.
If you are writing for yourself, use a stopwatch as
you read each page of copy aloud and then write
the time on the page.
If you are writing for somebody else, it is more
difficult to estimate time because everyone
reads copy at a different pace.
On average, newscasters read at a speed about
15 or 16 standard lines of copy per minute.
For TV, because of the split page and the
potential use of bold type for teleprompter,
most newscasters take about one second to read
each line of copy.