Nuts we have loved

I know that I said we would talk about nut grafs last Thursday, but then this cold stepped into my path.

Let’s get back on task: Nut grafs help you focus. They help you retest your “thesis.” They can also help you organize your story. Not to mention what they do for the reader (oh, the reader β€” yeah!) who wants to know really quickly what your story is about and why he/she should find some time to spend with you. Can’t explain that in a few words?


I sent out a challenge last Wednesday. I asked you to send me an example of a nut graf you thought worked really well (or one that failed miserably).

Tom Capp sent in this one from the New York Times about a student who jumped off a bridge after being “outed” on the Internet by his roommate.

The next one is from Dustin Renwick, and it’s from a great piece in the New Yorker (long form fans: you will want to read this all the way through) about an art “authenticator.”

Kellie Kotraba sent in this article about home-schooling that I also think is a very good example of the concept of contiguity (look at where links and supplemental information are placed in the text.

Our last example came from Rosie Downey, and it’s about one of my favorite subjects: cupcakes.

Find the nut graf. How well does the story fulfill its promise? Does it make you want to read the whole story? Does it provide enough context and suggest relevance?

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12 Responses to Nuts we have loved

  1. Wow. I have to say that the one from the New York Times definitely lead me to read the whole story. It gave me enough information while still leaving me with unanswered questions that couldn’t be answered in the pictures or headline…thus leading me to read into the story to find my own answers. I will admit that the other one’s didn’t grab my attention as much…

    The authors keep the readers attention because it is not until one of the paragraphs towards the end of the story on the second page when the students punishment was addressed.

  2. Amy Backes says:

    I loved the cupcake story.
    The lead was really what got me. I just had to smile.
    I don’t know about anyone else, but I like reading feel-good stories. It was just the right mix of fact and fun.
    And now I’m ready for a cupcake πŸ™‚

  3. “Her father was a dentist.”

    Love it. All the stories were great and compelling, but the simplicity of that statement grabbed me.

    And it even has a passive verb.

  4. Dustin says:

    Agreed on the dentist. What a great detail. I wonder if the author asked questions to get that one or if Lind offered it up?

    The home schooling article did have some great placement of supplemental stuff. Just as I was about to stop reading, a sidebar or picture popped up, and I scrolled some more.

  5. Lizabeth Hartnett says:

    I love the dentist comment too. And the lead for the outing on Twitter story. That one got me into it right from the start.

  6. rosiedowney says:

    The use of the exact twitter message in the NYT article is a strong opening. It immediately gives the reader a few clues to the topic, the age of the people described in the situation and their feelings on the subject of privacy.

  7. Regina Wang says:

    Though the nut graph for “The Mark of Masterpiece” is enticing, the story itself has little to do with Martin Kemp, the character mentioned in the nut graph. The story doesn’t even circle back to Kemp; over 75 percent of it is entirely devoted to Peter Paul Biro. Is that OK?

  8. Briana Gust says:

    I have to say that despite the lengthiness of the New Yorker one, it really captured my attention on a topic I would otherwise most likely not read. I love long form writing and enjoyed the vivid adjectives.

    I think it also helped to have the picture placed at the top – it’s a very interesting picture, with cool lighting, that enticed me to read the story.

    However, I got bored about two pages down, stopped skimming and strayed away from the story, reminding me of when we talked about the way we read online. (Or maybe because it’s 1:30 a.m., either or!)

    I also liked “Her father was a dentist.” – short and sweet.

  9. danramey says:

    I agree with the point Regina brought up as well. I find the fact that the lede of the Leonardo story and the nut graf focused on Kemp a bit confusing. For example, I saw the big picture above the story and automatically thought that it was Kemp but then went back and read the caption and found out that it was Biro. I feel like Biro should have been introduced into the story a little sooner because for the most part, I thought that the man described in the headline and subhead was Kemp and not Biro.

  10. The homeschooling article Kellie sent has a great example of a nut graf. I was struggling with the whole concept because I feel I may not have quite grasped in in J2100, but after lecture I went back and reread the posted articles and looked at their nut grafs. I am now a lot more confident in what a nut graf is and how I go about putting one in my articles. I think I do it subconsciously anyways, but now I know to be mindful that what I’m foreshadowing will actually be mentioned later in the article.

    I also loved the links and sidebar stories. It made me want to read the article because it was well thought out and easy to navigate. The reporter did an excellent job serving the reader. I probably wouldn’t have been interested if I just saw that headline paired with long text similar to the New Yorker piece we looked at in class.

  11. Ben Frentzel says:

    The lede on the Rwanda story made me feel the emotions like crazy. The descritpion word were thick, and the nut graph just led me right into the facts I neede to know to fall even deeper into the story.


  12. I loved the cupcake story. I know cupcakes have become a huge trend in the past few years, with shows on every type of channel, and having experienced the Magnolia Bakery this summer, I can say I’m pretty obsessed with cupcakes.

    This story not only highlights the writer’s creativity, but their ability to dig deeper, and find that perfect piece of information to begin the story. She knew exactly where to put it, and it comes from asking just the right questions. And by doing so, I read the entire thing, it engaged and captured me.

    It all makes much more sense to me now. I obviously knew all of these components of interviewing and writing were connected, but being good at one can lead you into being good at another.

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