Writing by the numbers

A lot of the writing that you see in the news media follows a formula. That doesn’t mean it’s the best writing or that it’s even appropriate under all circumstances, but it is useful as a way to get things written out quickly. When you are stuck on how to put something together, it might work for you. Here it is:

  • First paragraph that tells who’s involved, the big thing that happened, where, when, and that makes it clear why the person reading it should care. Keep this short – one or two sentences totalling fewer than 25 words is ideal.
  • A second paragraph giving sufficient additional detail that the reader pretty much knows what’s going on. In a short, online brief or broadcast story, this may be all. In a longer piece, you’d move on to
  • A quotation from someone affecting or affected by the story
  • A short paragraph fleshing out that quotation and giving it context in the broader story.
  • A quotation from someone affecting or affected by the story.
  • A short paragraph¬†fleshing out that quotation and giving it context in the broader story.
  • Etc. until you are done.

This type of story is pretty easy to write, once you have gathered and outlined your information. It can also be a good start for getting past writers’ block.

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