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Aug 07

How to Write for Web Pages - Part 6 - Elements of a Basic Web Story

Posted by Bill Anderton

In the previous installments of this tutorial, I have discussed the processes of writing a story for your website.

In this installment of the tutorial, I’m going to discuss the basic structure of the story itself, including how arrange each writing elements in the overall story.

Please note that there is no absolute way to put a story together, but there are some rules of thumb that provide basic guidance for a story.

Inverted Pyramid

In Part 3 of this tutorial, I discussed the Inverted Pyramid Style of journalistic writing. In this installment, I’m going to expand on the concept into a basic structure for a story.

As discussed, the Inverted Pyramid Styles put the most-important elements of the story (the lead) at the beginning of the story. Arrange other elements of the story in descending order of importance.

There are very good reason this structure has evolved.

The majority of visitors to a website are impatient. Visitors want first to determine if they are in the right place if your page contains what they want to find.  You have to show them quickly that your page is worth their time. Second, they want find what they are looking for quickly.

The Inverted Pyramid Style of writing puts the conclusion of the story first, often in the lead. Next, the supporting information and summaries are provided. The story ends with the foundation information and data for further detail. This style of writing gets the reader off to a quick start by providing the broad conclusion first and then supporting the claim of the conclusion in the remainder of the story.

The purpose of the inverted pyramid style is to get the reader hooked quickly so they will hang around and read the rest of the story. Rather than attempting to change the readers’ behaviors, the writer is catering to it.

Using the concept of the Inverted Pyramid Style, we have a general guideline about how to put the elements of the story together.


Please note that in the illustration above, I have made the depth of each segment equal. This is only an artistic liberty to show their relative important in the vertical arrangement. I am NOT implying each element contains the same number of word. The elements near the top of the pyramid are relatively short.

For example, the lead is typically less than 40 words. On the other hand, the background element could be hundreds or thousands of words.


The lead of the story is the first part of your story, the first sentences or its opening paragraph.

All leads for stories should meet basic two requirements.

  • It should capture the essence of the story
  • It should compel the reader to read more.

The two operative words are capture and compel.

In a hard-news story, the lead is often written in one sentence in a simple subject-verb-object construction. A hard-news lead gives the most-important information about the story.

In a feature story, the lead is often in a more narrative form but still have the same mission to capture and compel.

Backup for the Lead

The backup for the lead is optional and might contain one important fact, quote or statement that substantiates the lead.

Nut Graf

A “nut graf," also called a perspective paragraph, is a summary of the essence of a story that appears after the lead.

The word is a contraction. It is a paragraph (“graf”) that is the nutshell (“nut”) of the story.

In a hard-news story with a direct lead that contains the focus of the story, you do NOT need a nut graf.

However, all narrative and antidotal leads should have a nut graf.

In a feature story, a nut graf summarizes the essence of the story in straightforward terms for the reader. It contains the underlying idea of the story. In one paragraph (or sometimes one sentence), it puts the story in context for the reader. Nut grafs tell readers why the story matters.

In a feature story, the nut graf might be in the third or fourth paragraph, after the narrative lead. It summarizes what the story is about. The nut graf will include some, but rarely all, of the information that would normally be in a news lead.

Lead Quote

The lead quote is the first quote in the story that directly backs up the lead. The lead quote is typically the strongest quote in the story. The lead quote should support the concept in the lead but not repeat the same wording.

You should be sure to attribute the quote (like all quotes) to proper sources. 

Background and Details

Any history and background that readers need in order to understand goes here. For example, how did the problem or action occur?

You should place all details of the story also in this section.


In almost all cases and whenever possible, the writer should directly explain how the subject of the story affects readers. The impact sentence or paragraph should clearly answer these questions:

  • What is the significance of the subject you are writing about in your story?
  • What in the story should make readers care?

Please note that not all stories can show a direct impact. But, you should have a clear paragraph explaining the reason for the story.

Elaboration Case

All of  supporting points related to the main issues in the story makeup elaboration. You should make elaboration detailed statements, quotes or more detail to explain what happened. Also cover the how, and why the problem or action occurred. What, how and how used in the elaboration do not have to be brief like they are in leads. Use the words to build a case.


The most-common ways of ending a story include one of these elements as a closing statement:

  • Any future action that may occur, including a statement or quote that summarizes previous information
  • More elaboration

Avoid summary endings that merely repeat what you have already said elsewhere in your story. Write a strong closing. 

Category: (08-14) August 2014   Tag:

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