6. The outline of paragraphs is another problem for many students.
The outline of paragraphs is where you put your ideas in order. The first paragraph is always your lead -- we'll work on leads more in later lessons, but for now, keep in mind that your lead should pretty much tell the whole story in a nutshell, putting your most interesting information first.
Mayor Cline's involvement
Westland College Student Association
Background on poverty problems, county statistics
Need for food, money, volunteers
Challenge to the community
Where and how food will be served
You may not agree with this order of paragraphs For example, you might want to put #7 higher up in the order. That's the advantage of dealing with short abbreviations at this point (the outline of paragraphs will include just the bold headings 1-9, not the italicized comments ) -- they're easy to erase and move up or down.
Notice we're using the inverted pyramid style here . As you know from intro courses, this is the journalistic style that says "Put the more important stuff at the top, the less important in the middle, and the least important at the bottom." Reporters know that editors want to be able to cut a story from the bottom up -- if it's ten inches and they only need eight, they want to be able to simply snip two inches off the bottom. The story has to hold despite the loss of that last paragraph. Then, if necessary, the editor needs to be able to snip again, and maybe again -- until only the top paragraph or two are left. With a well-crafted inverted pyramid, the story is still intact, even though now's it's only a "news note" -- a brief item.
Of course, as a PR writer, you don't want to write a single paragraph that could be considered "least important." You want the entire story to survive. That's one reason why our press release format is very specific about length. Our press releases are two pages long, no more, no less -- well, actually, a little less, since we leave white space above the headline on the first page, to allow room for editor's comments. To supply less than this is to send a clear signal that the story can be told in a brief news item. To send more than an editor is likely to use, is to abdicate the decision of what to keep and what to cut -- you should make that decision before sending in the story.
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