Lesson Plans

SNN Writing Guide

Note: We recommend that you print this guide and distribute it to your students.

Students must know the five Ws

When reporters start writing a news story, they look for the answers to five simple questions -- known as "The Five W's". The answers to those questions are the basis for every story.

  • Who? - Who is involved? Who did what? To who? Who is affected?
  • What? - What happened?
  • When? - When did it happen? In what order did events take place?
  • Where? - Where did this happen? Did the location change?
  • Why? - Why did it happen? What caused it?

The reporter will often try to include all or most of the answers in the first line or paragraph of the news story. That opening section is often called "the lede" or the "the lead". The opening lines give the readers a good idea of what happened as soon as they start reading the article.

The Inverted Pyramid style of writing

This is the style of writing used in reporting for newspapers, magazines as well as for television and radio. The inverted pyramid means articles should be written with the most important information first and the least important last.

Breakdown of an article

First paragraph

  • In your first one or two sentences tell who, what, when, where, and why.
  • Try to hook the reader by beginning with a funny, clever, or surprising statement.
  • Go for variety: try beginning your article with a question or a provocative statement.

Second/third/fourth paragraph

  • Give the reader the details. Include one or two quotes from people you interviewed.
  • Write in the third person (he, she, it, they)
  • Be objective (never state your opinion unless it is an opinion piece)
  • Use quotes to express others' opinions!

Last paragraph

  • Wrap it up somehow (don't leave the reader hanging)
  • Please don't say...."In conclusion" or "To finish..." (yawn!)
  • Try ending with a quote or a catchy phrase.
  • Use active words (verbs that show what's really happening.)

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