November 23, 2017

Avoid ‘the pig in the snake’

Write a nut graph that doesn’t slow the story’s flow

Don’t let your nut graph become the pig in the snake, counsels Jacqui Banaszynski:

Avoid 'the pig in the snake'

This little piggy Nut graphs shouldn’t be too big to go down in a single swallow. Image by Eric Parker

“I like the nut graph,” says the Knight Chair in Editing at the Missouri School of Journalism and visiting faculty member of The Poynter Institute. “Readers need a frame around the picture. But sometimes the nut graph sticks out like a pig going through a snake. The nut graph doesn’t have to be a paragraph. Instead, it can be one elegant line that foreshadows the rest of the story.”

Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar of The Poynter Institute, agrees:

“The ‘nut’ is supposed to signify the hard kernel of the story, what is at the center. But it’s a clumsy metaphor, because it suggests there is a shell that has to be cracked to get to it.”

That’s no fun for the reader, writes Kate Long, a writing coach for The Charleston Gazette:

“You’re eating this nice brownie, and suddenly you hit a chunk of dry flour.”

To keep your reader from choking on your nut graph, write a short, graceful summary that’s in keeping with the tone and style of the rest of your piece.

  • Hook ’Em With a Savvy Structure

    Our old friend the inverted pyramid hasn’t fared well in recent research.

    According to new studies by such think tanks as The Readership Institute and The Poynter Institute, inverted pyramids: 1) Reduce readership and understanding; 2) Fail to make readers care about the information; and 3) Don’t draw readers across the jump. In short, researchers say, inverted pyramids “do not work well with readers.”

    Catch Your Readers - Ann Wylie's persuasive-writing workshop in Denver on May 1-2, 2018At Catch Your Readers — a two-day Master Class on May 1-2, 2018 in Denver — you’ll learn a structure that can increase readership, understanding and satisfaction with your message. Specifically, you’ll learn:

    • How to organize your message to grab readers’ attention, keep it for the long haul and leave a lasting impression.
    • Three elements of a great lead — and five leads to avoid.
    • How to stop bewildering your readers by leaving out an essential paragraph. (Many communicators forget it).
    • Five ways to avoid the “muddle in the middle.”
    • A three-step test for ending with a bang.

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Register for Catch Your Readers - Ann Wylie's persuasive-writing workshop in Denver on May 1-2, 2018

    Browse all upcoming Master Classes.

    Would you like to hold an in-house Catch Your Readers workshop? Contact Ann directly.

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