Keys to crafting an effective nut graph

Whatever you think of the nut graph, it has certainly earned a hallowed place in the news writing hall of fame. Among its many contributions, the nut graph has liberated a generation of journalists from the arbitrary requirements of the inverted pyramid and the hard news lead.

Nut graphs give writers an opportunity to have a little more creative freedom. Instead of packing the 5W’s into the first sentence, you can let the story breathe a little. You can begin a story with a short scene, an anecdote, a question, a bit of dialogue. Why would you do such a thing? To get the attention of the reader. To make the story interesting.

But this freedom carries with it an important responsibility. The writer has to justify that unconventional opening and explain to the reader “why” that stuff at the top was important. And the writer has to ask some important questions: Does this story need a nut graph? Does the nut graph have to go before the jump? How long does the nut graph have to be? Is there such a thing as a nut word, a nut phrase, a nut sentence — even a nut zone?

In this week’s writing chat, we’ll address these questions and talk about how to craft an effective nut graph. Twitter users can tweet questions ahead of time or during the chat using the hashtag #poynterchats. You can revisit this link at any time to watch a replay of the chat.

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  • Anonymous

    hello, this mess. is for Roy Peter Clark. I’m certain he would want to hear from me. My name is Donna Welles. My grandma is Margery Miller Welles. I am in process of getting International Boxing Hall of Fame to induct my grandma. I have already written them a letter. I included the article you wrote about her. I would like to show you the letter I wrote them. It’s important to me that you know that if it wasn’t for you I don’t think this would have ever happened. I’ve also written Wellesley and Sports Illustrated. Please forward this to Roy Peter Clark. Thank you.

  • Poynter

    Thank for the compliment. CCI is Corporate Communication International at Baruch College/CUNY.

  • Anonymous

    Great discussion. A block at the bottom says that “Writing Chats are supported by CCI.”

    Who is CCI? We want to support whoever supports Poynter.