The New York Times is about the only publication that has writers this good.
From Des Moines to Omaha to Kansas City — a region known more for its barns than its bandwidth — a start-up tech scene is burgeoning. Dozens of new ventures are laying roots each year, investors are committing hundreds of millions of dollars to them, and state governments are teaming up with private organizations to promote the growing tech community. They are calling it — what else? — the Silicon Prairie.
John Eligon, Tech Start-Ups Find a Home on the Prairie, New York Times.
Technology freaks me out. Reading this article in the hours between the day-before and the day-of class was therefore, not fun. The first three graphs were alright, the fourth manageable, but when the fifth came around with numbers and such, I was zoning out.
Considering I had no choice, I went back to the beginning and tried again. I read the fourth graph about the three times, and suddenly – I knew what the guy was talking about!
This must be the definition of nut-graf. It’s not just about the who, what, when, where, why, how and so what, it’s also about the reader. The simple language (from word-choice to structure) really helped me feel like I not just understood the situation, but knew what the writer was talking about.
From there, everything just fell in place. Technology is generally not something that interests me, but knowing what the piece was about gave me the confidence to keep reading. The nut-graf gave me a building-block context that I could refer every next paragraph to. This way, I was able to make sense of a story I would otherwise have just run my eyes over (if I wasn’t required to read it for class, that is!).
I’m going to use John Eligon’s example to redefine nut-graph: that’s the place in the piece the dummy keeps going back to, and the cash-register dings, or the light-bulb comes on, or [enter similar cliche].