Newswriting and
Grammar handbooks
↑Handbook↑   Leads   Contents   Ordering   ↑Revised Excerpt↑   That/which

    Writing Leads
    Focus:  Who Did What?
    1st  WHO?  Focus on the key person, group or concept.
         The president, James Veritas, a student, students, the club,
         the FCC, True Value, the unemployment rate, an earthquake
    2nd  WHAT? Focus on the significant action and the impact.
       Ask: “Who did what? What happened? What may happen?
       Why is this important? Why should the reader care?”
        Veritas criticized ...     Not: Veritas spoke … Don’t state the obvious. 
        May censure or plans to censure is safer than will censure.
        Accuracy. Brevity. Clarity. Depth.

    Develop:  Finish the idea
    3rd  WHEN?  Normally used. Shows timeliness.
    4th  WHERE?  If it’s not obvious. [If not in opening locator.]
    5th  WHY?  The audience grabber.
    6th  HOW?  If it’s not obvious. Keep it short and sweet here.
    The 5-W’s-&-an-H  Summary Sentence

    Place most, but not necessarily all, of the 5-W’s-&-an-H 
       in order in one summary theme sentence. 15-25-35 words.
        [Optional locator.]  1st. Who? 2nd. What? 3rd. When? 5th. Why? 
            CITY – The Truth College student council may censure the
         school paper tomorrow for criticizing the student body president.
    Lead OR Delayed Opening
    [] Lead: Use the summary alone as the lead paragraph,
         as the set-up for an inverted-pyramid news story,
         which starts with the most important information.
         Continue with the 5-W’s-&-an-H outline.
    [] Delayed Opening: After a description or an anecdote,
         use a delayed summary sentence, sometimes called a
         nut graph. Place the summary sentence where readers
         and  headline writers can easily find it. Continue with
         the 5-W’s-&-an-H outline or a chronological narrative.
         In a persuasive piece, the theme may be the conclusion.
    The 5-W’s-&-an-H  Outline

    Expand the
    5-W’s-&-an-H summary in the same order.
        ¶1 The summary sentence about the council planning a censure.
        I. ¶2 answers Who?:  Discuss the council’s possible vote count
        II. ¶¶3-4-5 answers What?:  Explain the effect of the censure. Be
        fair and balanced.  Provide a quote from the newspaper editor.
        III. ¶6 mentions When?  The day is in ¶1. The meeting time. 
        IV. ¶6 continues with Where?  Building,  address[?],  room.
       Time and place are vital for future events, not for past events.
        V. ¶¶7-8 answers Why?: Describe the complaint. Explain any
        history. Identify the president, if not yet identified.
        VI. Skip How?: Explain only if the voting is unusual or abnormal.
        More s?: Use quotes from council members about the censure.


    Bias Patrol

    Spin Doctors

    Be wary of a source, such as a lobbyist or a public relations representative, whose job is to promote specific positions. Seek multiple sources. Note any relationship of a source to your publication.

    Reporter Intensity

    Be alert to your own level of interest, which may be more or less intense than your readers level. Write to their concerns. Dont confuse new with important. Use your power to select quotes and information to strive for neutrality. Be aware of your own biases.

    Poor Research

    Be wary of biased analysis, unscientific polls and inconsistency. Correlation does not mean causation. Be cautious if no one else has the story.

    Cultural Conflicts

    Look carefully at other cultures. Be wary of having only one informant represent an entire culture. Verify your impressions. Realize that you are a visitor, not an insider.

    Pretrial Publicity

    Use accused until individuals are found guilty. Say arrested on a charge of, not arrested for. Follow any local editing policy about using the names of crime victims and of youthful offenders.

    Inappropriate Language

    Consider whether a description is necessary to identify an individual. Be on guard for offensive words and hate-speech messages that demean or inflame people or groups. Watch identifiers: age, class, community, disability, ethnicity, family relationship, gender, neighborhood, race, religion, sexual preference, veteran status.

    Inappropriate Humor

    Be alert for sarcasm, irony, ridicule and bad jokes that may be inappropriate or misunderstood.


Ordering information

J-Skills [newswriting & PR writing exercises] [N.E.W.S., Sources, Tools, WhiteHouse '08]