In American English journalism terminology, a nut graph is a paragraph, particularly in a feature story, that explains the news value of the story. The term is also spelled as nut graf, nut 'graph, nutgraph, nutgraf. It is a contraction of the expression nutshell paragraph, i.e., "in a nutshell" paragraph, dated at least to the 19th century. Sometimes the expression nut paragraph is also used. Writing a nut graph is called nutshelling and the writers are called nutshellers.
In most news stories, the news style of writing is used, and the essential facts of a story are included in the lead, the first sentence or two of the story. For example, a story about crime statistics written in news style might start out with a lead like: "Violent crime is down in Anytown, but shoplifting is soaring, according to statistics released by the Anytown Police Department Tuesday." Good leads try to answer who, what, when, where, why, and how as quickly as possible.
However, in feature stories, or in news written in a feature style, the story will often begin in a more narrative manner. For instance, if a story on crime statistics were written in feature style rather than news style, the first few paragraphs might start by introducing a local business owner who was affected by the boom in shoplifting. The nut graf, which often will start in the third or fourth paragraph, will explain what the story is about, including much but rarely all of the information that would have been contained in a lead, so as to keep the reader interested.
- Scanlan, Chip (May 20, 2003). "The Nut Graf, Part I". PoynterOnline. St. Petersburg, FL: Poynter Institute. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- Scanlan, Chip (May 21, 2003). "The Nut Graf and Breaking News". PoynterOnline. St. Petersburg, FL: Poynter Institute. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- Moscheles, Felix (March 1898). "The Baroness von Suttner's New Book". Concord. London: International Arbitration and Peace Association. 13 (4): 63. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
On every page we recognise her incisive style, and we come across those peculiarly happy thoughts she knows how to condense into a nutshell paragraph.