Writing tight news copy – the inverted pyramid and the five Ws

John Newton's picture
John Newton
 
Sereno blog
 

Writing news copy can be daunting.

One way to make it easier is to follow a simple structure.

Journalists are usually taught to envisage news stories in terms of an inverted pyramid. Essentially you need to get all the important information into the first para and then add the detail as you progress. This approach allows news stories to be cut down by simply chopping off the last few paras when space is tight.

Of course space on a website or intranet is not as tightly controlled as an old-fashioned printed newspaper column, but writing for the web still requires a certain discipline. You still want to keep your copy tight and get the key info up front.

This is where the five Ws come in: Who, What, Where, When and Why.

Don’t try to get the answers to all the five Ws in the first sentence. Keep your sentences short and build the story logically so it is clear what happened.

Once you have sorted your five Ws – you make like to add another two points – How and What Next. How explains more about how this news event came about and What Next is an opportunity to let your readers know about your plans for the future.

Add in some quotes if you have them and don’t forget to name the speaker and add their job title. Don’t put facts about the story in the quote – keep these in the main copy and use the quote to add a more personal angle.

Write to this simple structure and your news story should come together easily. A good tip if you get stuck is to tell the story out aloud as if you were talking to a friend and you should find the details will flow.

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