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For many folks, it’s not what their writing that’s a problem. It’s what they’re not writing. The nut graph. (That is, the “nut” or “core” paragraph.) The nut graph is the paragraph in your story that delivers to readers the main point of the story. As Jen Stevens, author of our Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program and architect of our upcoming workshop puts it, it’s the “so what” paragraph. It lets readers know what your main idea is. Usually, it comes just two to five sentences from the top of your article. Here are some examples … EXAMPLE 1:

“Road trips can be many things — thrilling, purposeful, strange — yet rarely are they glamorous. You can remedy that by renting a fancy car, but if you’re on a budget or plan to drive your own car, there are other ways to hit the road in style.
   
Below are 10 ideas that, while practical, can also add a touch of luxury for the driver, passengers, even the dog.” NUT GRAPH

– NYTimes Travel, Stephanie Rosembloom, May 2014, “10 Ideas for a Smoother Road Trip”

EXAMPLE 2:

It’s Saturday morning in Rio de Janeiro. The street sweepers in Lapa, the beating heart of Brazil’s second largest city and home to its most famous club, Rio Scenarium, are still clearing up the remnants of last night’s boisterous revelry. Disco throbs have turned into a gentle buzz as stalls line the streets for a weekly craft fair.Like most people, I came to Rio in search of some samba and sun but my quest takes an expected twist after talking to one of the staff at Hotel Fasano, where I’m staying. She tells me that the piece we’re sitting on—a luxurious gray velvet sofa—belongs to Rogerio Fasano, the hotel group’s founder, who has been accumulating local treasures for years. The lobby is packed full of his furniture: a table hewn out of half a trunk of jacaranda wood, stylish sofas and sleek chairs with polished wooden arms.
   

With my own remodel under way at home in London, my appetite is whetted for some midcentury finds. And with the World Cup just around the corner, it feels like a particularly good time to be lapping up all things Brazilian—and a great excuse to spend a few days perusing the back streets of Rio.

–Wall Street Journal, Jemima Simmons “Shopping for Midcentury Furniture in Brazil”

EXAMPLE 3:

“When I moved to Barcelona almost two decades ago, I quickly learned that going out on a weekend night meant staying out until almost morning.My girlfriend (now wife) and I might meet friends at a restaurant around 10 p.m., then go to a bar for drinks, and still, well after midnight, someone would inevitably ask, “What are you going to do tonight?”
   
Often, by the time we headed home, after whatever adventure we had improvised, the sun was coming up, and we felt exhausted. But we made a habit of stopping in one of the cafés just opening up for the day for a sweet nightcap—churros con chocolate. Lightly crunchy and sprinkled with sugar, deep-fried churros are delectable eaten alone but are somehow incomplete. Like Fred without Ginger. Abbott without Costello. If churros are king, then chocolate a la taza is their mandatory consort. Taza means “cup,” but with a thick, creamy, almost pudding-like consistency, this chocolate isn’t so much drunk as eaten—with a small teaspoon or by dipping churros.”

–Afar Magazine, Jeff Koehler, April 2014, “SPAIN’S SWEET SPOT: CHOCOLATE A LA TAZA”

If you got a reply to your article from me this week that said: “Great article. Send it in!” Please do that. Pick a publication you think will like your article and email the editor tout de suite. If you didn’t or got no reply, then chances are, I read it and thought it could benefit from one of the things I wrote about this week:

  • Create a stronger lead
  • Bring your best, most interesting point up to the top
  • Add a good nut graph – a paragraph that contains the real nut meat of your article

I would love to have read and reviewed in detail each and every one of the more than 100 articles I received from readers this week. I couldn’t do that. But I hope the tips I’ve shared have helped you to identify how you can strengthen your own writing.

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