News writing is a key skill for journalists, but it helps with other types of writing as well. That’s because news writing is about telling a story quickly and concisely. Anyone can learn to do this, with a bit of help. Here’s how you can write the news and get your story across. The technique also works well for writing press releases.
News Writing Structure
News writing has its own structure. It’s called the inverted pyramid. This upside down triangle serves as a guide for how you include information in the story. Using the inverted pyramid means starting with the most important information, then putting the next most important info and so on. It can also serve as a guide for writing each paragraph in the story. Start with the most important point, then the next most important and so on.
The inverted pyramid has an interesting history. Before digital printing and desktop publishing, news was laid out manually. If a late breaking story came in and the editor needed to make room, then the editor would order another story to be cut. Having the most important information at the top meant that readers always got the essential parts of the story.
Writing The Facts
Another way to think of the inverted pyramid is that you start with the facts and then add the background. So, how do you know what background to add? It’s easy. You can use the 6Ws. Strictly speaking, there aren’t six, there are actually 5Ws and 1H, but the formula seems to work. That mnemonic reminds us to include the who, where, what, why, when and how of a story.
Why is this? Think about how you tell a story to your friends. You might say: ‘You’ll never believe WHO I just saw!’ Then you might go on to tell the story of where the person was, what they were doing, and why it’s scandalous. We all want to hear about people – and that’s what news is about? Look at any news story and you will see that all of this information is in the first two paragraphs. Anything after that is background to the story.
Let me give another example. If I were writing about a car crash, I would say who was involved, when and where it happened, why it happened and how it happened. Those would be the main points and my story might look something like this:
Two people sustained serious injuries in a car crash at Hill Road at 6am today. The collision happened when Mr. Smith swerved into the opposite lane to avoid a dog in the road. Ms Jones, who was in that lane, was unable to stop in time. Both Mr. Smith and Ms Jones have been taken to the local hospital.
This is not a perfect example, but you get the idea – and now you can write the news too.