Journalists seek to answer five questions about each news story:
- Who is it about?
- What happened?
- When did it happen?
- Where did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
You can memorise this list as: who, what, when, where, why?
It can be useful also for those of us who are not journalists but are writing a report, an exam answer, a letter, an email or any other piece of writing.
Keeping these questions at the forefront of your mind when you are writing anything helps to ensure that you include all the information that the reader needs while excluding irrelevant material.
For example, if you send someone an email telling them that you will be somewhere at a particular time, vagueness can be worse than useless. You need to specify the date and time, the address or landmark where you will be, and, if relevant, what you will be doing there and why. Otherwise, the person may waste hours or days attempting to guess where and when you will be available.
If you are writing a report, you need to include these essential details before you consider adding other information, such as qualifying adjectives or adverbs, which you should use sparingly, or your personal feelings.
Aim for precision in all your writing because it is helpful and kind to the reader.