Writing for the Web: Five Questions - What about the answers?22. July 2012 - 16:27 — Dejan Georgievski
When answering the questions we talked about in the previous article – who, what, where, when, why (and, of course, how) – they ways in which you answer them and how many details you offer may differ.
The example we offered answered the 5W questions in 35 words. That is, we have to say, a sort of unwritten rule for our South-Slavic languages, that you should give each of the questions seven words. You manage that, and you have written yourself a news article already.
How much detail you will offer depends on the type of text you are writing. All five questions are equally, but the way you approach and treat them may differ. In our view, it is most important to give as precise as possible description what happened, who were the protagonists and why it happened.
To answer the questions when and where, you can rely greatly on context, on knowledge and experience of your audience.
"John Smith, worker from New York, tried last night to see if there was gasoline left in the tank of his car with a lit match. He was 37. He left behind a wife and two children”. (We owe you an apology here. In spite of all efforts, we couldn’t find the original news that won, while we are at it, the award for best composed news article some 30 odd years ago, for proper attribution and this is the best approximate translation back into English we could muster. Also, we have to thank Zoran Stanojević, who points out this excellent example in his article “Limits of New Media”, published on www.mediaonline.ba. For those who know BHSM languages, we strongly recommend you read it).
You see in that example how the reporter relies on acquired knowledge of his audience and their ability to use the grammar – past tense combined with the crazy idea how to check the contents of a gas tank – to the logical conclusion that the story couldn’t have really ended happily.
In most cases, it should suffice to say that something happened in Mostar, Tuzla, Travnik or Sarajevo. About the „When?“ part, most portals, websites, social networks and their content management systems (CMS) automatically display the exact time and date of publication of an article. It allows for the use of less specific time determiners, such as yesterday, last night, two days ago, without mention of actual date. To note, the need to point out the exact time and location, up to naming the exact street and number where something happened, comes from the crime beat departments in daily newspapers, since it can potentially make the finding of witnesses of the reported event much easier.
Anyway, try to be as concise as possible. Rely on the knowledge and intelligence of your audience but bear in mind, the wider the audience you address, the deeper into details you will have to go. An association talking primarily to some marginalized or vulnerable group will address its narrowly defined audience in one way, and the wider public in another.
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