Writing & Voice

For digital, flatten the pyramid and embrace the trapezoid

If you’re wedded to the inverted pyramid (or just don’t know any better), don’t get to the point — end on a flat note. Metaphorically.

During the pandemic, cover those we’ve left out

In times of crisis, journalists have the responsibility — even more so than usual — to seek out people who are often passed over by the media, even as stay-at-home orders make it harder to reach them.

It’s not a ‘Chinese’ virus: Let’s avoid pernicious shorthands

“Chinese virus.” “Hindu mobs.” Using geography, ethnicity and religion as modifiers is questionable at best and dangerous at worst.

The haiku of radio journalism: how to write a newscast spot

A spot must tell a complete story — no matter how complex or involved — in under a minute. It’s not easy to write, but we have guidance.

despairing editorial calendar on top of a box of tree ornaments

If you do holiday service journalism, do this (not that)

It’s the time of year when few local and regional news outlets (including public radio) are spared. Here’s how to do it as best as it can be done.

Friends don’t let friends use snowclones (like this one)

You’re probably using these ubiquitous journalistic crutches without even knowing it.

Tips from the Twitterverse on surviving two-ways

Smile, remember to breathe and be prepared to improvise when you’re a reporter on a two-way.

The journey from print to radio storytelling: A guide for navigating a new landscape

Print and audio journalism exist in the same world — but the terrain is different. Let this serve as your map.

How NPR’s David Greene learned a new ‘art form’ in radio

The “Morning Edition” host came to NPR from newspapers. His advice on audio: Forget everything you know. But don’t!

You asked: How do you tell a story in 3 acts?

The three-act structure is the most basic organization a story can have.

Aerobics for your voice: 3 tips for sounding better on air

To build a strong vocal presence for audio storytelling, you should practice a daily warm-up routine that involves body, breath and voice.

6 tips for catching your writing mistakes (and protecting your credibility)

No one is available to read behind you and it’s nearly time to hit “publish.” What do you do? Call on the copy editor within.

Radio intros: 5 examples of success

A good radio hooks your audience. Here are five examples of great intros — and why they work.

Beyond the 5 W’s: What should you ask before starting a story?

Print this poster, which has the six questions you should ask before starting a story.

A good lead is everything — here’s how to write one

The lead is the introduction — the first sentences — that should pique your readers’ interest and curiosity.

How to write short

Just because there’s a lot of online real estate available doesn’t mean every story is appropriate for long-form treatment.

How audio stories begin

At this hyper-competitive moment in audio, it’s essential to grab listeners at the very beginning of a story. But how do you do it?

Reporter two-ways: Improvisation within a structure

For many radio reporters — even some of the most experienced ones — the prospect of talking on-air with a host can be daunting.

Don’t ‘radiosplain’ and other ways to report on communities that aren’t your own

We can all get better at talking to communities that are not our own. It requires listening, humility and the willingness to investigate our own biases.

How Joe Richman makes ‘Radio Diaries’

Joe Richman gives tape recorders to “ordinary” people and works with them to tell stories about their own lives.

How to inject ‘documentary flair’ into your story

Infuse documentary-style radio into everyday reporting (even when you think you don’t have the time or material). 

6 NPR stories that breathe life into neighborhood scenes

Transcend scene-setting clichés. Here is a sampling of ways NPR journalists have done just that.

Active sound: How to find it, record it and use it

Active sound makes an audio story sparkle. It is sound that isn’t stuck in the background. It’s up-front. It shows character and action. Here’s how to capture it.

NPR’s Korva Coleman: Newscasts without panic

The NPR anchor’s guidance works for any public radio newscaster, in big markets and small. 

What NPR One can teach us about radio intros

The listening app holds lessons — both positive and negative — for intro writers.

How NPR’s Carrie Johnson found her radio voice

For this correspondent, learning to write for radio required a special style of script-writing.

On deadline? Follow these tips to get on the air fast

Among these tips: Have “booty call” sources: They are always available and they know what you need.

An accuracy checklist to take with you

We all make mistakes — this checklist will help you make fewer of them.

How to use sound to make a news spot pop

Robert Garcia, executive producer of NPR’s Newscast Unit, shares examples of stand-out news spots and why they work.

Campfire tales: The essentials of writing for radio

Good copy effortlessly leads the listener from one piece of tape to the next. Find out how to accomplish this feat of writing grace.

What does a radio script look like?

Not every broadcast radio script looks the same! But there are elements every script should share. And here they are.

Radio 101: The life of a story from concept to air

If you are new to radio, this post should help demystify the process. The first step may be the hardest: finding the story.

How a long audio story is different from a short one

Longer pieces are not just stretched-out short pieces. If you’re going to keep people listening to you, you’ve got to work harder!

Radio intros

Radio intros: 7 engagement tips to keep listeners from hitting the skip button

Intros are the most important feature of your story — here’s how to write one.

How NPR’s Sam Sanders is finding his voice

Is there a typical public radio voice — perhaps a “white” voice? Is there room for new and different ways of speaking?

‘Would you say it that way?’ Tips on writing for your voice

Why is it so hard to write how we talk? Here are some essentials tips to capture the human voice in your radio writing.

Steve Inskeep: Three songs that will change how you write for radio

Let Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle be your guides.

‘Once upon a time’ and other devices for starting your story

Every story has its own style of adventure. Here are different ways to take listeners on a journey.