Journalism 101: How to Write News Articles: Article Format/ Narrative

While some writers feel inhibited following a standard format, these formats help organize information so that the reader can easily understand the topic even if they are just skimming the paper. They also help entice the readers to read further

The inverted Pyramid

First developed and widely used during the civil War, the inverted pyramid is best suited for hard news stories. The article begins with the lead and presents information in order of descending importance. The most important information comes first, followed by less important details.


inverted p 1
  • The Hourglass

Builds on the inverted pyramid and combines a narrative. The first 4-6 paragraphs contain a summary lead and answer the most pressing questions. Then a transitional phrase cites the source of the upcoming story – “Police say the incident occurred after closing last night.” The article concludes with the chronological story.

hour glass
the hourglass
  • The Nut Graph

Developed by the Wall Street Journal in the 1940s, it includes an anecdotal lead that gets the readers attention, followed by a paragraph that provides larger content for the story and moves the article in that direction. This form lets the reporter explore larger issues behind an incident. For example, a nut graph article might begin with the story of a fire, then move into a discussion of budget cuts that leads to delays in fighting the fire.

nut graph
  • The Narrative

Has a beginning, middle and end just like a story. One famous example, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, was actually published as a novel. But for most news articles, narratives should be short and to the point and used only where telling a personal story helps to convey the point of the article. The New Yorker is noted for using narrative form.

  • The Five Boxes Story

Combines the forms listed above. Useful when you have a lot of data to sort through. Box 1 contains the lead, Box 2 contains the nut graph, Box 3 tells the story begun in Box 1, Box 4 contains supplemental details such as statistics or expert opinions, and Box 5 contains the “kicker” or the quote, image, o9r comment that ends the story on a strong note.

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