The Writer’s 5 Ws
Yes, it’s Journalism 101, but people who should have it engraved upon the doorposts of their hearts still manage to forget that every news story should contain the Five Ws (and sometimes the H of “how”).
As editor for a site for writers, I solicit announcements about events that have to do with writing. I am dismayed by the number of submissions I receive that leave out one of the five Ws.
Kipling made it easy for us to remember:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
For a club announcement, be sure that the five Ws provide enough information to enable a reader to make a decision.
For example, the When should include not just the date, but the time of day. Readers will appreciate having an ending time as well as a beginning time, for example, “noon until 3 p.m.”
The Where may be familiar to the person writing the notice, but it may not be to the reader. If the place is a restaurant or a hall, it may be helpful to include an address, or directions for getting there.
The Who needs to include more “who-ness” than just a name. If Who is a speaker, use an appropriate epithet: Forensics expert Max Lewis, Entomology professor Laurie Baxter, literary agent Maggie Smith. If the Who is an organization, don’t expect everyone to know that SCBWI stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Spell it out at least once.
The What, of course, is the event: a monthly meeting, the tour of a new library, an exhibit.
The Why should give the reader an idea of why the event is worth attending: an opportunity to see a new facility, to learn about criminal investigation, to find out what an agent wants in a query letter.
Next time you’re asked to send a notice of an upcoming event to your local media, it might be a good idea to review the five Ws (and sometimes H) before submitting it.
Oh, and one more thing that’s not in Kipling’s list: Be sure to include contact information. This may take the form of a name, telephone number, website, or email address at the end of the story.
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