Kelly Sans Culotte

Journalism 101

How to Write News
From language to structure.

Related Section
Journalism 101

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What Is News?
How to Write News
Using Quotes
Writing Leads

The language of news writing should be clear, concise, exact, and interesting.

Clear: Your meaning should be understood without leaving any room for doubt. Whenever there's a choice between two words, opt for the simpler one.

Concise: Say everything you have to say with the minimum of words.

Exact: You should write without ambiguities, or distracting digressions.

Interesting: Make the reader want to keep reading. Write as if you were talking to a friend.

News stories are written in an inverted-pyramid style, with the conclusion first, details later.

This means that the basic facts, the conclusion, the lead, etc., come first. As you move through the story, succeeding paragraphs explain and amplify. Each successive paragraph contains progressively less important information. Answer the questions Who, When, Why, What, Where and How— in any order — in the first two or three sentences.

An Example
The Mayor of Tadwich (Who) planted a tree (What) on Tuesday (When) at St. John's School (Where) to commemorate a brave pupil who died saving a classmate from drowning (Why).

The next few paragraphs — most papers these days paragraph each sentence — will tell the reader who the brave pupil was, when where and how s/he died, who was saved.

A good reporter will include some comment from the dead person's family early on.

Then the story might tail off with details of who else was at the ceremony, other events planned, and so on.

Suggestion: It may help to write the beginning (the lead) last, after you've organized all the details.

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