• The Editor

The 5 Ws

Another great w-w-w-w-way to figure out your ideas.

Photo by Grizzlybear.se on Unsplash

This is one of the first things you learn on any journalism or police investigation course: how to structure your stories or reports.

It's the Five Ws. WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY?

Who did the thing?

What did they do?

When did it happen?

Where did they do it?

Why did they do it?

Some add an an 'H' to the Ws - HOW? - so you can ask 'how' they did it?

These principles of questioning actually trace their roots back to Ancient Greece, and have been attributed to everyone from Aristotle to the amazingly titled Hermagoras of Temnos.

Traditionally the answers to these questions were provided in the first paragraph of a news story. But over time that approach changed.

What I like about the Five Ws is that by asking them, they can help you think about any creative problem in a different way. There are no 'yes/no' answers here.

You can deploy the technique in situations where you have a germ of an idea, but you need to interrogate it further. Things like a new business idea, or service. An idea for a product. Or an idea for how to market and promote any one of those things:

Who is it about? (or for?)

What did they do? (or what does it do for them?)

Where did they do it? (or where will they use it?)

When did it take place? (or when will it be used?)

Why did they do it? (or why should anyone give a toss?)

Asking these questions may help you work out if your idea has legs. Or whether it'll quickly run out of steam.

Either way, it'll save w-w-w-w-way more time than just guessing at it.