Top Tips of the Trade

  1. Start strong. Well begun is half done.
  2. Read--and understand--your source copy.
  3. Underline or circle key facts.
  4. Think. Don't write yet. Think.
  5. Write the way you talk.
  6. Apply the rules for broadcast newswriting.
  7. Have the courage to write simply.
  8. Refrain from wordy warm-ups.
  9. Put attribution before assertion.
  10. Go with S-V-O: subject--verb--object.
  11. Limit a sentence to one idea.
  12. Use short words and short sentences.
  13. Use familiar words in familiar combinations.
  14. Humanize your copy. And localize it.
  15. Activate your copy: use active voice--and action verbs.
  16. Avoid a first sentence whose main verb is any form of to be.
  17. Avoid a first sentence whose main verb is may, could, seems.
  18. Use present tense verbs where appropriate.
  19. Put your sentences in a positive form.
  20. Don't start with a quotation or a question.
  21. Use connectives—and, also, but, so, because—to link sentences.
  22. Put the word or words you wish to stress at the end of your sentence.
  23. Use contractions--with caution.
  24. Pep up your copy with words like new, now, but, says.
  25. Watch out for I, we, our, here, up, down.
  26. Omit needless words. (Is every word necessary? If it's not necessary to leave it in, it is necessary to leave it out.)
  27. Hit only the highlights.
  28. Don't parrot source copy.
  29. Place the time element, if you need one, after the verb.
  30. When in doubt, leave it out.
  31. Don't raise questions you don't answer.
  32. Read your copy aloud. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. The art of writing lies in rewriting what you've already rewritten.
  33. Pray. And polish your résumé.

This list has been adapted from Writing Broadcast News--Shorter, Sharper, Stronger, 2d ed., a professional handbook by Mervin Block. It's published by Bonus Books, Chicago (800-225-3775).

More tips:
Dozen Deadly Sins
A Broadcaster's Book List

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