Write the Way You Talk: Tips from Merv Block

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on March 5, 2009

No matter what good intentions you may have about sounding conversational in your broadcasts, if your writing isn’t conversational, forget it. Good conversational delivery starts with good writing. The best writing expert I know, Merv Block, points out many ways to improve in his book, WRITING BROADCAST NEWS. I tell clients about them all the time. If you want to write the way you talk, try these ten tips of Merv’s. For conversational writing,

DON’T:

1. Start a story with a participial phrase or a dependent clause.

2. Use long, complicated sentence construction. Stick to a subject-verb-object pattern.

3. Start a story with a quotation or a question.

4. Start a story with “There is,” “There are,” or “It is.”

5. Write a first sentence in which the main verb is any form of “to be”: “is,” “was,” “were,” and “will be.”

6. Start a story with the name of an unknown or unfamiliar person.

7. Start a story with a personal pronoun.

8. Use big words, odd words, wasted words, fancy words or cliches.

9. Tell “what” before you tell “who.” 10.Forget to rehearse your copy out loud.

Merv Block, a newswriting coach, is the author of WRITING BROADCAST NEWS–SHORTER, SHARPER, STRONGER and other books on writing. He holds newswriting workshops and writes about newswriting at http://www.mervinblock.com

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