Communicating with Clarity

This course introduces students to fundamental concepts that underpin an authoritative journalist’s work and which can help non-journalists write with precision, power and flair.

A student will learn to capture and retain a reader’s interest, to use context to explain the significance of an event, to inject personality into their work and to tighten their writing.

A news-writing approach based on the inverted-pyramid style may seem at odds with the demands of a longer, academic essay.

While the styles may differ, they share common aims: To build a convincing argument, draw the reader deeper into the story and stoke interest all the way.

The course describes what makes effective headlines and leads, how to supply a “golden quote” to support the lead, how to layer details as the story progresses and how to provide transitions to help the story flow.

Students are presented with a story structure checklist, and upon successful completion of the course, they receive a certificate.

Why this course was developed

We are at a point on the global information highway now where people have so much information to absorb that they skim stories before making a reading commitment. Readers do not commit to in-depth reading when they arrive at your story; you need to offer attraction to arrest their first glance.

To capture and hold the attention of readers, writers must offer simple story structures to make the task of absorbing information easy and fast. And in a world of fake news, writers now also need to offer solid sourcing to ensure their facts are trusted and used.

Some readers use news to make timely decisions about investment of money and time, others to learn. So what journalists write should be clear from the first paragraph and carry context so that readers understand the background to a story background as they absorb the new facts.

All this calls on journalists to orchestrate headlines, keywords, leads, and quotes in a simple way, starting with the first three simple paragraphs that effectively ‘sell’ the longer story to the reader.

Writing this simply is a challenge, but journalists need to seize and hold readers to survive in today’s competitive world.

It is a totally different approach to essay writing, the common writing style in schools and colleges. In essays, writers start with a premise and write through to the conclusion. In news writing it is the total opposite, starting with the conclusion and only then providing the supporting facts.

The well-structured news story strives constantly to buy a reader’s time, drawing the eyes deeper into the story, intensifying interest all the way.

Think you have what it takes? Before answering ‘yes,’ check out this video from BBC Academy.

Recommended ReadingFAQs, and the Discussion Forum.