A guest post by Tom Diederich of Ninety Five 5.
Bloggers don’t have to be journalists—but following basics from the reporter’s notebook can help new bloggers write successful posts.
If you have to read halfway down the page to get to the main point, chances are you’ve already lost most people. But for many rookie bloggers, the instinct is to pen posts that start with a story and conclude with the main idea. (And, yes, these do work sometimes, too!)
For most blog posts, spill the beans straight away. Tell the most important information at the beginning and then add the details along the way in order of importance.
And here’s how: Back in Journalism 101, my instructor and later my mentor told us on the first day of class to memorize (and keep as a mantra) something known in the newspaper world as “the 5Ws and an H” and the “inverted pyramid.”
The five “Ws” are: who, what, when, where, why and the “H” is how.
- Who? Who was involved?
- What? What happened? What’s the story?
- Where? Where did it take place?
- When? When did it take place?
- Why? Why did it happen?
- How? How did it happen?
In newspaper journalism, reporters are told to get the 5Ws and H into the “lead” (pronounced “leed”), which is comprised of the first sentence or two of a news article. The lead contains the most important information.
While it’s not essential (or even appropriate) to include each and every “W” (or even the “H”) in most blog posts, I use the 5Ws and H to teach new bloggers the importance of getting to the point—fast.
Another tool for clear and concise blog writing is the inverted pyramid. It was invented because newspaper editors, working on tight deadlines, must often chop news stories to make room for advertisements, photos and other news from edition to edition. And they always start chopping from the bottom.
Using the inverted pyramid helps you focus on writing a concise blog post. I like to keep mine under 500 words.
Sure, blogging is very different from traditional news writing, but the “gist” of the 5Ws and H, along with the inverted pyramid, are both ideal for bloggers in an age when attention spans … oh, look, a bunny!
(See what I mean?)
One of Computerworld’s first online reporters, Tom Diederich made the jump to social media in 2000, building and managing internal online communities for SGI, Palm and Intuit. Since then, he has built and managed B2C and B2B customer-facing online communities for Symantec, Cadence Design Systems and Ninety Five 5 as a community manager/social media strategist.