The News Manual Chapter 5: Writing the intro, the golden rules

IN Chapter 4: Writing the intro in simple steps you learned what qualities made a good intro, the importance of newsworthiness, and of answering the questions Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? (WWWWW & H) – but not all in the intro!.

You also took the first steps in actually writing an intro from raw information to the finished short, crisp sentence based on the news angle.

In this chapter, the second part of intro writing, we discuss some golden rules to help you write the best intro possible.

KISS
As we have mentioned in Chapter 4, all news stories must answer the questions Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? Each of these questions may have several parts, depending upon the nature and complexity of the story.

Do not try to answer them all in the intro. You will only confuse your reader or listener. Stick to one or two key points per sentence, especially in the intro. Remember the golden rule is KISS – Keep It Short and Simple.

You will overload your sentence and make instant understanding difficult if you include unnecessary details that can be explained more fully later in the story.

Your intro is like a canoe being paddled against a fast-flowing current. Every word in the sentence should be like a rower with a paddle, helping to push the sentence forward. There is no room for lazy words sitting back without paddles in their hands.

They just make work harder for the rest of the words. So look closely at every word and ask yourself: “Does it have a paddle in its hand?” If it doesn’t, throw it overboard! Some of the fattest and laziest words to be found in the intro canoes are titles.

Inexperienced journalists often think that they have to put full titles in the intro when, in fact, they belong later in the story. Try to shorten titles for your intros wherever possible.

In the following example, you will see that a general description of the person in the intro, followed by the full name and title in the second paragraph, works much better:

RIGHT:
A Port Moresby union leader yesterday condemned politicians who try to interfere in labor disputes. Mr. Mug Wump, president of the Port Moresby Waterside Workers’ Union, said…

WRONG:
Mr. Mug Wump, president of the Port Moresby Waterside Workers’ Union, yesterday condemned politicians who try to interfere in labor disputes.

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