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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.
“On Your Mark...”

September 3rd, 2001

One of the most helpful things you can do for yourself when you are reading copy is to take the time to actually go through the copy and mark it up. In this way, you also begin to see the series of words you are about to say not just as information being passed on to an audience, but also as a kind of ‘score’, with dynamics and flow.
Here are some thoughts on marking your copy:

1. On critical pieces of copy (sweeps pieces, series, pieces being submitted for awards, etc.) make more than one copy of your script. This way, you can mark up one copy for practice, and then have a clean copy for your actual performance.

2. For long-term growth, mark up pieces you have already done. I know this sounds a bit contradictory, but when you think about it, once you have done the piece, the pressure is off to be perfect, and you can actually have some fun re-working the piece or doing it in a slightly different way. Since you won’t be airing this version, you can be very creative.

3. There is no standard way to mark copy, and no newsroom wide system. You mark copy for yourself, to remind yourself what to do with your voice at specific places in the copy.

4. Just come up with your own personal, quirky symbols for where you raise your voice, where you pause, where you point your inflection up for suspense, or down for a completed thought. No one else needs to understand your ‘code’. Be lavish with your inventions and have fun marking up your copy.

5. That being said, I will suggest one mark that you might find very useful: use two slashes (“//”) to indicate a big breath, and a single slash (“/”) to indicate a smalll breath or pause. The big breathes are the places you KNOW you are going to have to stop, refill your air supply and move on. The ‘little’ breaths are somewhat more flexible. Maybe you get the breath, maybe not, maybe you combine two or more segments, maybe not. At very least, you will begin to break your copy up into simple, workable chunks. This ‘chunking’ idea becomes the basis for much of the work we do getting solid breathing skills integrated with copy.

We’ll talk more about that in future installments. Till then, breathe deeply!