Formatting Scripts #3: Radio

Last time I wrote “The big problem with stage scripts is that, when they are published, they are never in seen in the correct, production format.” Now, the problem with radio scripts is that no-one sees them, unless you go out of your way to find them.

A few immediate things to note about radio scripts:

  • Acts are meaningless – there are no intermissions in radio plays, well certainly not British radio plays.
  • Scene descriptions are meaningless – the audience cannot hear “interior – bedroom – morning”
  • You have just three things to create your radio play – dialogue, sound effects and silence (oh, yes, silence is very useful). However, that is a discussion beyond the scope of this little Chautauqua (nice little Robert Persig reference there – Google other definitions for a further irony in my usage)

So, we are about formatting. There are three styles of radio script formatting – the US style, the “cue” style (mostly used for live recorded shows) and the scene style. I concern myself only with the Scene Style as it is most appropriate for radio drama.

Formatting for Radio Scripts

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows a sample of script (click on it to expand). As with all professional scripts, we are using 12 point Courier (or Courier New)

The scene number, while it will automatically be included when using writing software, is optional.  This is because the sound effects will usually denote the change of scene. I prefer to keep them in as it makes the reader’s or director’s job easier. The scene number is indented about nine centimetres from the left page edge.

Directions are also indented about nine centimetres, as with stage scripts. Plenty of room for hand written notes there. They are always uppercase (as with stage scripts) and underlined.

The character names and dialogue are the same as for the stage play (se previous blog) with the name hard against the margin, followed by a colon and the dialogue indented by about 4cm from the margin.

As with all scripts, use the minimum necessary to convey the meaning. Avoid the temptation to produce pages full of descriptions. And limit the use of parentheticals like (IN A SEXY TONE) and (IN A BREATHY VOICE) although there are some special abbreviations that can be used. But more about them another time.

For more on formatting, go to the BBC Writer’s Room page.

Next time I might look at screenplay formatting.



Filed under Writing

6 responses to “Formatting Scripts #3: Radio

  1. John Morrison

    People in radio expect you to work to an undrestandable format but are less worked up about it than film people. I’ve written 3 plays for radio4 and if you broadly follow the format shown here you won’t go far wrong. Then concentrate on the play itself.

  2. thanks for this input, John. Always good to have comments from people who are actually paid to write. Generally, the BBC seem to be a little more flexible when it comes to such things.

  3. After going over a handful of the blog articles on your blog, I really like your way of writing a blog.
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  4. bobchambless

    John, thanks for the formatting ideas. I Googled a fair bit but you had the cleanest presentation. And perfect timing too, as a friend asked me to write a bit for them by tomorrow night! So, a sincere thank you and best of luck to you in your writing. Cheers.

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