How to Write for Radio
Written by
She Writes
February 2019
Written by
She Writes
February 2019

There may have been a time where radio was looked at as an outdated medium for communication, but audio-based content is undergoing a re-emergence.  From podcasts to satellite to audiobooks, smartphones and now smart speakers are creating more opportunities for writers to be featured in an audio-based format. Whether you are writing copy for an ad on a podcast or being interviewed about your work on a radio program, these tips from Jo Giese, an award-winning correspondent for ten years at Marketplace, public radio’s daily business show, can help.

Read Aloud

First, if you’re writing something for radio, remember words that work well on the page, don’t always translate well to audio.  Read your piece out loud and if you stumble over a word, if it has too many syllables, you’re bound to mess it up when you record it.  Go for simple words that will be readily understandable on the air.

And be sure to time yourself reading the piece out loud.  If the radio station says they want two minutes, be sure your piece comes in on time.  And don’t feel slighted about being given just two minutes.  Think how much territory the nightly news can cover in two minutes.

Live Radio Tips

If you’re doing a live radio interview to promote your work, have in front of you a list of three or four favorite anecdotes that you can use on air.  Nowadays radio hosts seem to want the guest to do most of the work.  Also, maybe have a favorite short—the operative word here is short—passage from your work to read on air.

I was recently interviewed by a radio host in San Francisco regarding my upcoming book Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother.  In the pre-interview the host asked a lot of questions and it was a very friendly, relaxed and comfortable exchange.  However, when we went live, she led with a comment---then blank air space—I was waiting for a question.  Nope, she was giving me the opportunity to plunge ahead with my spiel for 30 minutes.  Afterward, my PR team said to expect more of this—a leading comment, and then the guest fills in and basically leads the interview.  An interesting twist.

Record Yourself

Record yourself at home and listen to your voice.  Most women have higher-pitched voices, which can come across as squeaky and irritating.  If that’s the case for you, try to lower your voice.  This is difficult but possible.  Maybe find a voice coach to work with for a few sessions.  And smile when you speak.  It will relax your vocal cords and help with a more natural delivery.

Jo Giese is an award-winning radio journalist, author, teacher, community activist.  Her book Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother will be published for Mother’s Day 2019. 

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