This activity will help you develop your own concise news writing style by replicating what BBC journalists have to do every day.
Journalists writing for the BBC News or BBC Sport websites have to be able to write very concisely because most of their stories also appear on the Ceefax and Red Button text services, which are usually just four paragraphs long.
This is the same story on the BBC Sport website and the Red Button - but the Red Button text service has only four paragraphs to tell the story, while the website goes on to expand on its report
So the stories have to sum up all the important facts - the five W's and How - in four paragraphs (before expanding on them for the websites). That means every word counts.
Find a current story that interests you in a newspaper or think of a famous historical incident.
Now try to tell the story in four paragraphs, which in BBC Red Button terms equates to about 80 words.
What kind of information do you have to cut out? What do you notice about the language you use? How many of the 5 W's did you manage to cover?
Video: Scriptwriting masterclass (3 mins 30 secs video + 4-5 mins to recap/discuss)
School Report's scriptwriting masterclass (duration: 3 mins 30 secs)
For BBC Breakfast reporter Tim Muffett, writing engaging and informative scripts is part of his job.
Watch his video in which he gives his hints and tips on scriptwriting for video or audio reports.
There is a real art to writing a good script and a lot of the time less is more: if you have great pictures, let them speak for themselves rather telling viewers what they can already see.
Tell each other about the last thing that interested you so much that you couldn't wait to tell someone else. That's what news is about - communicating something of interest.
Between you, decide on a news story you are going to report. It could be either of your stories or it could be something else.
If something else, do some research on the topic, gather the key facts - the 5 W's.
Now, one of you tell your partner about it, just like you did when you were telling your own piece of news.
The reason for doing this is that news is best communicated as though you were telling a friend. That way, the most interesting information, is naturally what you communicate first.
Having spoken your story out loud, write it down on the worksheet.
This will turn your story into a script, and also enable you to calculate how long it will take a presenter to speak it. Newsreaders read at three words per second.
Remember the 3 Cs when you write your script
Remember to keep your words clear concise and correct:
Clear: Write how you would say it. Get straight to the point at the beginning.
Concise: Don't waffle. Keep your sentences - and the length of your report - short.
Correct: Get your facts, spelling and grammar right.
You will probably need to rewrite your script, using the second worksheet, which is all good news making practice.
Once you have completed your script, you can add in notes about any quotes, sound effects, stills, graphics etc, on the left-hand side of the worksheet.
If you've finished your script, write a cue - that's the introduction that another presenter gives before they hand to the journalist presenting the report. Remember, the aim is to promote the piece, not to tell the story. So, in your cue, don't repeat the words that are in the opening sentences of the report.
Quiz: Writing news (10 mins)
Quiz: Writing news
This is your chance to see just how much you know about writing a good news story.
1.) Writing news
Journalists use language that is clear, * and correct.
2.) Writing news
Journalists' language is simple and to the point. Which of the following phrases is the best example?
Police hit out as demonstrators make point
Riot police used shields to push demonstrators back
Demonstrators show their emotions as police get involved in clash
3.) Writing news
Which of the following will help make your report more interesting?
Quotes from key interviewees
4.) Writing news
Which of these is most likely to annoy readers?
Big chunks of text
Inaccurate spelling and grammar
5.) Writing scripts
After you've written your script, what's the first thing you should do?
Give it straight to the editor
Read it aloud to make sure it sounds okay
Move on to the next story
6.) Writing headlines
What is the golden rule for writing headlines?
Be as clever as possible
Keep it short and bright
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story
The answer is concise, which means short. When you're writing the news, it's important to keep your sentences short, so that people can understand what you are trying to tell them. It's also important that your report is not too long, otherwise people will switch off.
Riot police used shields to push demonstrators back is the most clear because it simple and straightforward. No word is wasted. The other examples are vague and unclear.
Quotations will add interest to your report. A quote is a great way to add some colour. Listen out for interesting or amusing quotes when you are interviewing people.
Inaccurate spelling and grammar is most likely to annoy people, so double check before you publish. But long chunks of text and jargon are also irritating!
The first thing you should do is to read it aloud to make sure it sounds OK. It may feel a little weird to read something you've written out loud, especially when the people around you are quiet. But journalists who write for radio and TV are always told to read their scripts aloud to make sure there are no tongue twisters in it!
A headline should be short and simple. It should grab people's attention but mustn't mislead them. Be clear and tell readers what the story is about.
0 - 1 : Keep working at it
2 - 4 : Good but could be better
5 - 6 : Well done!
NOTE FOR TEACHERS
The online quiz gives you the answers at the end of every question. If you are using the quiz worksheet, the answers can be found here:
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