How to write a radio script

Updated February 21, 2017

Learning how to write a radio script is critical for proper execution of a radio performance. The script must include various cues for dialogue, music, and sound effects and be able to quickly and clearly communicate the writer's objectives to the cast and crew. Here is a guide on how to write a radio script.

Formulate a story idea. Outline your characters, plot, setting, conflict and resolution.

Write a narrative of the story. Put the "meat" of the story on the bones of your outline. Always keep the limitations of radio in mind. You are writing for listeners, not viewers.

Divide the narrative into scenes, with good descriptions of setting, character, and sound effects.

Write the dialogue based on your narrative. Let your characters and sound effects give the listener a clear picture of the action in their mind.

Put the story into radio script format. This includes:

a. Write a page heading. This is used to specify what program or episode you're working on and what page you are on in the script. It should be placed across the top of the page.

b. Write a scene heading. This specifies the scene number, description of the scene's location, and time of day.

c. Include script cues. There are three things a listener mainly retains from a radio drama: dialogue, music, and sound effects. Each of these audio components is identified as a "cue"-because they happen at a given time in the script and the director may have to instruct someone ("cue them") to produce it.

d. Insert music cues. Varying emotions can be achieved through the choice of music. Clearly written instructions regarding music cues will greatly assist the cast and crew in influencing the mood of a given scene.

e. Include the dialogue cues. This helps the director and the actors prepare themselves for proper timing and execution.

f. Insert the sound effect cues. Sound effects help to establish the scene or depict action. Sound effect cues are always underlined.

g. Compose your production notes. Engineers, cast or crew require specific instructions that are handled as production notes--comments from the writer on how to coordinate cues or achieve particular effects. These need to be clear and precise.

Edit your radio script after letting it sit for a few hours or days. A fresh set of eyes will help you catch any mistakes in grammar or plot. Consider having a third-party scrutinize the script for you.

Present the script to your producer or editor and make revisions as necessary.


Radio scripts are the blueprints of your presentation. There is seldom time in radio programs for script memorization so your notes and cues must be precise to achieve the results in real time. Detail the setting and characters as much as possible, so the actors and actresses can embody the characters, and the sound-effects operator can plan his effects. Always remember you are writing for listeners, not viewers or readers.

Things You'll Need

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This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.