Shortcut: Writing Newspaper Articles (pp. 273-275)

The media teacher, Ms Carr, is revising newspaper writing with her class.

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The first thing she mentions is the inverted pyramid. This is a model for organising news stories. The point is that you start with the most important information and end with the least important information.

There are three reasons for doing this. First you catch the reader’s interest by starting with something interesting or important. Also, a reader who reads only the first half of the story will have got the main points of the story. Finally the copy editor may cut off the least important paragraphs at the end if there is not enough room on the page.

The first sentence or two of a news story is called the lead. The main point of the story should be summed up there. Many journalists use the six questions when writing news stories. The six questions are what, who, when, where, why and how. A news story should answer these six questions. You may not be able to answer all of them in the lead, but the lead ought to answer the most important of these questions.

A lead should not be too long, and it should come straight to the point.

The headline is also an important part of a news story. The headline has two functions. It should say something about the contents of the article, and it should make people notice it. It is important that the headline should not fool the reader.

Headlines need to be short, so you often leave out those small words you need to make a sentence grammatically correct.

Finally you use words that have a strong emotional appeal in headlines. Very often you combine two words that you would not normally see in the same sentence.

Shortcut activity

a In your own words, explain what the inverted pyramid is, and why it is a good idea to use it as a model for writing news stories.

b Explain what a lead is and how the six questions may be helpful to a journalist.

c What two functions should a headline fill? Why is it not enough to fill one of them?

d Make up headlines where you combine words that have an emotional appeal.