Your best quality scholarship, your acclaimed written research, may not become the best podcast script, and that’s OK. The way we absorb information, keep track of personalities, and characters, can visualize numbers and data is inherently different. So to be an effective and engaging podcast host, we need to change the way we communicate. 

As we try to reach audiences outside of our field, we should naturally be wary of jargon or unexplained technical terms or processes that can intimidate listeners or cause them to lose interest. We should also think about using a tone and style of language that is conversational and welcoming, rather than lecturing. Some basic guidelines can help us to make sure we achieve a welcome tone, with digestible, easy to understand information that can help us to connect with any listening audience

20 Rules for Writing for the Ear

  1. USE SHORT SENTENCES
  2. If you want to use a comma, use a period instead
  3. Use conversational language
  4. Subject first, then verb
  5. Attribute

    Cheryl agreed: “The lines at Disneyland were outrageous!”

  6. Introduce characters immediately before or after they speak

    This is Alison Smith, her daughter attends Little Lambs preschool: “The teachers have always been so kind and conscientious”

  7. Avoid honorariums – tell listeners what they need to know
  8. Keep conversations to 1 character at a time if you are telling a short story
  9. For longer stories we can develop a relationship with more characters and their voices
  10. Provide context for your listeners
  11. Signpost – provide specific directions for the listener
  12. “Write in and out of tape” – set up your listeners for what they’re about to hear
  13. Be sparing with numbers
  14. Paint a picture with numbers

    “That’s enough soccer balls to fill an olympic sized pool”

  15. Numbers are meaningless without context – give a percentage or other relative figure 
  16. You cannot be too obvious
  17. A good audio story takes listeners on a trip
  18. Active tape provides texture
  19. Read out loud while you write
  20. Use your voice as a tool
Writing for the ear worksheet
Writing for the Ear - In-class Activity
Image of a sample transcript
Writing for the Ear Activity - Sample Transcript