Most people have heard that it is important to include the five Ws (who, what, where, when, why, and we add in “how”) to make a message clear and complete, and that’s true. But do not try to squeeze them all in the opening paragraph.

A surprising number of people learned, or they seem to recall learning, that those critical elements needed to go in the first paragraph, but you cannot bury the reader with all that information in the opening couple of sentences.  Instead, focus on the two (maybe three) most important pieces of information out of the six key elements. It usually will be the “what” (what is the single most important point) and the why or how (why is this significant, or how are people affected). Insert the other information in subsequent paragraphs.

We crammed all the five Ws into many newspaper leads decades ago, because in the 1940s, people in an unhurried society had the time to plod through it. Today, you need to focus a busy reader’s attention by highlighting the most important of the Ws and how, and then weave in the other information later, perhaps in the second and third paragraphs.