The secret to writing a news story

Drawing of a pyramid

Writing news articles is a useful skill for any blogger or aspiring copywriter to learn.

Sadly, I can’t take full credit for this tip – it was given to me by my newswriting lecturer whilst I was studying at university.

It’s called the ‘inverted pyramid’.

The inverted pyramid

Imagine a triangle with its point facing downwards. The wide base represents the most important information, and the point is the background details.

When you write your news story, always put the most important piece of information first.

triangle

The inverted pyramid

The first line will normally include details that answer the questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?

For example:

A serial jelly thief [who and why] has been given community service [what] following a hearing at a magistrates court [where] this morning [when].

The following lines then provide additional details and colour to the piece.

Then, finally, you add in any extra background information.

Why is this used?

It enables your readers to understand your news story by just reading the first line. They can then stop reading the article at any point and still have all the information they need.

Additionally, it draws people in. The most important point is usually the most interesting or exciting, and your reader may be intrigued enough to want to find out more.

Picking the most important points

There’s a couple of tricks you can use to shape that important first line.

The first is to write down the questions listed above and note next to each them the relevant pieces of information.

Alternatively, my lecturer had a brilliantly creative way of weeding out the crux of the story. He asked us to draw a picture of what our stories were about. The subject that you choose to draw is normally the most important bit of information.

Summary

The trick to writing a good news story is to imagine an inverted triangle:

  • Put the most important point first (who, what, where, when and why)
  • Follow up with other important details
  • Finally, add in the background information

This enables your readers to skim read and still pick up on the important details.

Created your news story? Great! It’s time to start editing.

Like my blog? You can follow me on Twitter at @jrcopywriting

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