• Alicia Leo

Learning About Writing For The Ear

Updated: May 27, 2020

The most important part of a film is the sound. Writing for the ear is somewhat reminiscent of writing a screenplay in the way that your audience consumes your story. As a student where I am constantly switching back and forth between writing for the screen and for academic papers, I sometimes find it difficult to transition my voice.

To make it simple, the thought process for writing for print has to be disciplined. The reader has to put the words together and understand the meaning of your story, or the point you are trying to convey. There is no sonic element intended and the words must stand for themselves. Writing for the ear is very different because the audience is experiencing a sensation that has to tell the story for itself. There has to be meaning evoked from the noise and not just the words that were written for it.

When writing for the ear it is typically standard to utilize contractions. This is to simplify word flow and goes along with the unwritten rule of using simple vocabulary that one would use every day. When writing for print these two rules are often not enforced. The simple vocabulary rule, though, is often used in journalism so that people of all demographics can understand and comprehend your story.

There are some blurred lines between conventions that can make your writing better in both writing for print and the ear. This includes using active voice instead of a passive voice. Oftentimes this will keep your reader or listener more engaged with the subject matter. It is a very straightforward way to write and speak.

Something that lies between the two writing purposes is audiobooks. Although the content is written for print, it is translated into a format that is to be consumed as if it were written for the ear. These long-winded and descriptive sentences may come across confusing or distracting when translated to an audiobook. When writing for the ear specifically, it must be straightforward and specific in the sentence format. The listener has to stay focused and the way the ideas are expressed should not be extremely complicated.

Although, hearing the thought process of a speaker when they discuss a topic, like in a podcast, is an example of a happy medium. Podcasts aren’t always extremely straightforward and the speaker may speak in descriptive sentences. But music, sound effects, and emotion in voice help convey the story and keep the audience interested and invested. Often times short sentences and the use of punctuation can help enforce an emotion or point. But the beauty of podcasts and word written for the ear is that the audience can hear how the mind thinks.

When writing for film and television, you have to consider that your words aren’t the only thing utilized to convey your story. It is different than writing for print because your words aren’t being read with the eye, but are still visually conveyed in some way. This is something that I personally am working on with my writing and will consider more day to day.

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