February 18, 2018

Quotes on nut graphs

What writers and others say

Quotes on nut graphs

Nuts to you The nut graph is the frame around the picture, the thread in the necklace, say these experts. Image by Erik Schepers

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

“The most important thing in the story is finding the central idea. It’s one thing to be given a topic, but you have to find the idea or the concept within that topic. Once you find that idea or thread, all the other anecdotes, illustrations, and quotes are pearls that hang on this thread. The thread may seem very humble, the pearls may seem very flashy, but it’s still the thread that makes the necklace.”
— Thomas Boswell, Washington Post sports columnist

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack.”
— Winston Churchill, British statesman

“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.”
— Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar of The Poynter Institute

“If the 2nd graph of your story begins with ‘He/she isn’t the only one,’ don’t come back to work on Monday.”
— @FakeAPStylebook

“No matter how sizzling your start, eventually readers want the steak; that is, the story needs to be put into context. This essential section is sometimes called the ‘nut graf’ (the ‘graf’ being short for ‘paragraph,’ though it may occupy more than one paragraph). Here you must answer readers’ two crucial questions: What’s it all about, and why should I care?”
— David A. Fryxell, former editor, Writer’s Digest

“Journalism is the promise to explain the world, not just to tell a story. The nut graph shows your thinking — it’s the gauntlet you throw down.”
— Nick Lemann, New Yorker writer, and Columbia University professor

“You’re eating this nice brownie, and suddenly you hit a chunk of dry flour.”
— Kate Long, writing coach for The Charleston Gazette

“The nut graph is so important, you’d think writers would lavish as much attention on it as they do a story’s lead, opening quote or conclusion. And yet, nut graphs remain tough nuts to crack.”
— Michelle V. Rafter, business journalist

“A few weeks ago, an editor friend said she’d spent an entire day imagining herself the nut-graph queen — tiara and all — dispensing nut graphs with a tap of the wand and a click of the keyboard to every story that had entered her email inbox.”
— Michelle V. Rafter, business journalist

“Repetition is the mother of education.”
— Jean Paul Richter, German Romantic writer

“The nut graph is the ‘R.A.,’ as in ‘rat’s ass,’ as in ‘who gives a rat’s ass’ about this story?”
— Don Ranly, Ph.D., professor emeritus of the Missouri School of Journalism

“Think of the lead as a close-up. The nut graph is a wide-angle shot.”
— Chip Scanlan, affiliate faculty member at The Poynter Institute

“At The Philadelphia Inquirer, reporters and editors called [the nut graph] the ‘You may have wondered why we invited you to this party’ section.”
— Chip Scanlan, affiliate faculty member at The Poynter Institute

“Think of it this way: If I came to your house and told you to grab your things and follow me, how far would you go? To the front door? The driveway? Would you hop in my car without further explanation?

“The nut graph is where you reveal your destination, where you convince the reader to come along for the ride.”

— Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications Inc.
  • Go Beyond the Pyramid

    Master a story structure that’s been proven in the lab to reach more readers

    Writers say, “We use the inverted pyramid because readers stop reading after the first paragraph.” But in new research, readers say, “We stop reading after the first paragraph because you use the inverted pyramid.”

    Go Beyond the Pyramid in Denver

    Indeed, our old friend the inverted pyramid hasn’t fared well in recent studies. Studies by the Poynter Institute, Reuters Institute and the American Society of News Editors show that the traditional news structure reduces readership, understanding, sharing, engagement and more.

    Grab readers’ attention, pull them through the piece and leave a lasting impression.

    The pyramid doesn’t work well, these researchers say, with a little subset of your audience we call “humans.”

    At Catch Your Readers — our two-day hands-on persuasive-writing master class on May 1-2 in Denver — you’ll master a structure that’s been proven in the lab to grab readers’ attention, pull them through the piece and leave a lasting impression. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Grab reader attention with a lead that’s concrete, creative and provocative — and avoid making readers’ eyes glaze over by using one of the seven deadly leads.
    • Stop bewildering your readers by leaving out an essential paragraph. (Many communicators forget this entirely.)
    • Avoid the “muddle in the middle” by choosing one of five structural techniques from a rubric created by the founder of TED Talks.
    • Draw to a satisfying conclusion in the penultimate paragraph.
    • End with a bang, not a whimper by using our three-step test.

    Learn more.