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Who, What, Where, When, Why and How ... The five Ws and an H

Newspaper writing


A story is much like a conversation. It begins with the most interesting piece of information or a summary of the highlights and works its way down to the least interesting facts. There are words or phrases that take you from one topic of conversation to another. Before you know it, you're finished.


Inverted pyramid


Newspaper stories are usually written in an inverted pyramid style. This means that the basic facts, the conclusion, etc., come first. As you move through the story, more and more detail and background is provided.

This is different than much writing where you build to a conclusion, putting together details and background before explaining what the results are.

This type of writing came about in newspapers for a variety of reasons. First, in the days of the telegraph, the whole story took long to transmit, and starting with the main information ("The battle was lost, 940 killed") was more important for getting on press immediately than the details ("Our soldiers crossed the bridge at dawn with fresh supplies..."). Secondly, it made it easier for the layout people to fit the story in the available space, since they could just cut off the end. Finally, it also made it much better for readers who had differing amounts of time to read and were awaiting the main information.


You should be very familiar with the inverted pyramid style of writing. You'll likely use it every day. For example, when you call a friend to tell him or her about a big date, you begin by telling the most interesting and important things first. The least important information is saved for the end of the conversation, and depending on how much time you have to talk, that information may not get into the conversation.


The lead (a newspaper term) is the first paragraph of a news story. It tells you what is covered in the story, giving you the basic information and letting you know what you can expect to find if you read further. Usually, the lead is one sentence long and summarizes the facts of the news story in order of most newsworthy to least news-worthy. The reader should know at first glance what the story is about and what its emphasis is. The lead sums up the story.


Here is an example:

Bargainers from General Motors and UAW Local 160 will resume talks in Warren this morning seeking to end a day-old strike over the transfer of jobs from unionized employees to less costly contract workers.


Who, What, Where, When, Why and How ... The five Ws and an H

Depending on the elements of news value, the summary news lead emphasizes and includes some or all of the five Ws and H.


Who names the subject(s) of the story. The who, a noun, can refer to a person, a group, a building, an institution, a concept -- anything about which a story can be written.

The whoin the lead above are the bargainers from General Motors and the UAW.


The whatis the action taking place. It is a verb that tells what the who is doing. Reporters should always use active voice and action verbs for the what because they make the wording direct and lively.

Whatare the bargainers doing? The lead says they will resume talks.

Whentells the time the action is happening. It is an adverb or an adverb phrase.

Whenwill the bargainers resume talks? This morning.

Whereis the place the action is happening. Again, it is an adverb or adverb or adverb phrase. In our story, the where is Warren.

Why,another adverb, explains the action in the lead. The bargainers are meeting to discuss the transfer of jobs.

Howusually describes the manner in which action occurs.


News items

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 1348

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