Want to be a Better Writer? Learn the ‘5W and 1H’ of Writing

While the concept of ‘5W and 1H’ has been an integral part of journalism, it has also been useful for other activities like preparing for interview questions, writing stories and essays in English.

The ‘5W and 1H’ formula is known to have been introduced by English rhetorician, Thomas Wilson:

“Who, what, and where, by what helpe, and by whose,
Why, how and when, doe many things disclose.”
The Arte of Rhetorique, 1560

‘5W and 1H’ attempts to answer the following questions👇🏾

Check out this article to understand the meaning of ‘5H and 1H’ in detail: Asking the Right Questions: Understanding ‘5W and 1H’ in English Language

Say, for instance, you have to write about a detective novel you read recently, you must answer the questions as follows:

WhoCharacterWho is responsible for the crime?
Who are the prime suspects?
WhatPlotWhat incident took place?
What could be the motive behind
the crime?
WhenTimelineWhen did the crime take place?
Was it winter day or a rainy night?
WhereSettingWhere did it happen?
Was it the beach or the main
character’s mansion?
WhyThemeWhy do you think it happened?
Why would an old woman be a suspect?
HowStyleHow or in what manner did the crime
take place?

Each question should have a factual answer – facts necessary to include for a report or essay to be considered complete. Importantly, none of these questions can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.

A fun way of really thinking about the ‘5W and 1H’ is to write a six-line poem where each line focuses on one of the Ws and then H 👇🏾

At a train station (where)
a solitary figure (who)
paces up and down (what)
waiting for the train to Landing (why)
on a bleak December morning (when)
nervously (how)


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