Feature Articles: The 4 boxes

News articles (in mainstream journalism) are usually one of two main types: “straight news” or “feature articles.” Here we’ll look at a common rhetorical structure that feature articles use. This is sometimes called “The Wall Street Journal” style.

The “four boxes” of a typical feature story are:

  1. The Anecdotal Lead
  2. The Nut
  3. The Messy Middle
  4. The Kicker

The Anecdotal Lead
The Anecdotal Lead is a short scene (usually one to three paragraphs) that introduces the feature story. It is a narrative, that is Somebody doing Something. The “somebody” can be the writer, but usually is a different person.

The Nut
The Nut tells what the story is about. It is usually only one or two paragraphs long. The Anecdotal Lead is like an example of the Nut.

The Messy Middle
Facts. Quotes. Paraphrases. More anecdotes. Usually several paragraphs that give the details about the story.

The Kicker
The Kicker is the emotional conclusion to the story. It often refers back to the Anecdotal Lead, and points to the future.

My Presentation on the Four Boxes

Some easy to understand examples: