The Nut Graf

In a feature story, one technique is what’s called the nut graf. That’s the paragraph that gives a wider context or background, giving readers an additional reason to read the story  — besides the amazing subject being so fascinating. It puts the story in a nutshell, or maybe it’s called that for the nuts who still don’t see the point of the story.nut

Here’s an example from a story from my last year’s spring term class, called “A Sense of Place.” The story is about my friends John and Sarah Burleson, who run a small sheep farm just west of Lexington.

After seven grafs of an anecdotal lede, here’s the nut graf:

The family farm has been disappearing in the United States for at least a century. Although the small farm is celebrated in Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia” and pictured on food packaging in supermarkets, the reality is that much of our food comes from vast middle-America flatlands and regimented orchards under the sway of consolidated agribusiness. However, small farms have remained a part of Rockbridge County since its settlement in the 18th century. Today, according to the U.S. Census, the county has 805 farms, about the same number it had in 1860 on the eve of the Civil War. The average size of a farm in the county is 172 acres.

— Prof. Cumming

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