What Is a Nut Graf?

Nut graf is a slang term used by editors and copy editors at magazines and newspapers, and it refers to the paragraph or sentence that summarizes a story. The term is derived from the expression “in a nutshell,” combined with the word paragraph.

In periodical writing (whether magazines or newspapers), a nut graf puts a story in context and tells readers why the story matters. The nut graf justifies the point of the story, provides a transition from the lead to the rest of the story and tells readers why the story is important.

How It’s Written

In a standard news story, the nut graf is written in a news style, with the facts of the story included in the first sentence or two (a.k.a. the lead). A good lead answers who, what, when, where, why and how, quickly and succinctly.

For example, a news story about unemployment statistics might look like this: “The federal government has announced the rollout of an emergency benefits program, while unemployment rates are soaring, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada last week.”

If the same story were written in the style of a feature, however, the story would begin with a narrative. The first few paragraphs might introduce readers to a woman who receives monthly disability benefits, but does not qualify for the new program. Then, in the third or fourth paragraph of the story you would introduce the nut graf to explain why it’s important and include most (not all) of the information from the lead in the news article.

Keep In Mind…

  • Don’t reveal the ending of the story.
  • Think about what questions a reader who knows nothing about the topic of the article would have early on – answer those questions in the nut graf.
  • Give readers a compelling reason, a hook, to keep reading beyond the first couple of paragraphs.
  • Think seriously about what your story is really about and why people should read it – then type out those thoughts in one or two sentences. This is often a good basis for your nut graf.

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