Journalism Basics: The Nut Graf

I get giddy about the nut graf. I tell people that simply knowing the concepts simplifies life.

Chatty friend who’s going on too long? Ask for a nut graf (this will shorten your conversation, though not always the way you want).

The nut graf is, simply, the part of the story that tells a reader why they care and why they want to read it. From a structural perspective, it works hard for the writer by creating a roadmap. A good nut graf guides the writer during the writing of the story.

Poynter has a really good piece on this here. Here’s a part of it:

  • It  justifies the story by telling readers why they should care.
  • It provides a transition from the lead and explains the lead and its connection to the rest of the story.
  • It often tells readers why the story is timely.
  • It often includes supporting material that helps readers see why the story is important.

What I would add is this:

The nut graf should provide a broader context to your story. If the news is that a non-profit just purchased 10,000 acres of forest land as a preserve, the nut graf should tell me why they’re doing it, or at least put the purchase into a regional or national context.

Here’s a slide deck on what the nut graf and some examples of how it’s used:

More of a moving parts person? Here’s a Prezi on it: