Lead with two — not five — W’s

Avoid the ‘fact pack’

Don’t lead with the fact pack — cramming who, what, when, where, why and how into the first paragraph. That’s old-fashioned, thick and obscures the key point.

Lead with two — not five — Ws

How many W’s do you need? Don’t lead with the fact pack. Instead answer your readers’ most burning questions. Image by Thomas Hawk

Instead, answer the reader’s two most burning questions:

  • What: This could be “What is it?” or “What happened?”
  • Why: As in “Why should I care?”

IBM uses this approach on a product page.

  • What is it? “IBM Start Now website Management Solutions …”
  • Why should I care? “… provides the tools you need to manage and optimize your website, increase availability and deliver enhanced performance.”

That approach is more elegant and fresh than the Mark Twain-era fact pack. It engages the reader and puts the most important information at the top.

But more important, it’s an easy, two-sentence formula for making one of your most difficult story decisions: How do I start?

Note: This approach works in news releases as well as on websites.

  • Cut Through the Clutter Online

    Because “short is too long for mobile”

    “What’s slightly annoying” on a desktop can be “overwhelming” on a smartphone, according to the authors of User Experience for Mobile Applications and Websites.

    Cut Through the Clutter Online in Chicago


    • It’s 48% harder to understand messages on a smartphone than on a laptop.
    • People read 20% to 30% slower online. But they read about 30-milliseconds-a-word slower on mobile devices than they do on desktops.
    • Attention spans on mobile devices are 50% shorter than on laptops. So while mobile reading takes longer, people spend less time on a page when reading on their phones.
    Learn three tweaks that will increase webpage usability by up to 124%.

    How do you avoid overwhelming mobile visitors?

    At Writing for the Web and Mobile — our two-day hands-on web-writing master class on June 12-13 in Chicago — you’ll learn proven-in-the-lab best practices for increasing webpage usability up to 124%. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Pass The 1-2-3-4-5 Rule for online paragraphs. Tip: Test it on your smartphone for best results.
    • Increase usability by 58% with one simple step.
    • Make long webpages easier to read on a smartphone with three quick tips.
    • Use a cool — free! — tool for testing your webpage’s clarity. Get a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of ways you can measurably increase readability.
    • Avoid The Mobile Paradox: The No. 1 activity for mobile users is wasting time. But mobile users get “visibly angry” at verbose sites that waste their time. How do you avoid enraging readers?

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