It is a formula for getting the "full" story on something. The maxim of the Five Ws (and one H) is that in order for a report to be considered complete it must answer a checklist of six questions, each of which comprises an interrogative word:
The principle underlying the maxim is that each question should elicit a factual answer — facts that it is necessary to include for a report to be considered complete. Importantly, none of these questions can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no". In the context of the "news style" for newspaper reporting, the Five W's are types of facts that should be contained in the "lead" (sometimes spelled lede to avoid confusion with the typographical term "leading" or similarly spelled words), or first two or three paragraphs of the story, after which more expository writing is allowed.
- I keep
six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
- WHERE WENT THE 5 Ws?. The Marcus Letter. Retrieved on May 15, 2005.
- Knowing What's What and What's Not: The Five W's (and 1 "H") of Cyberspace. Media Awareness Network. Retrieved on May 15, 2005.
- Five Ws and H. Creativity Techniques. Retrieved on May 15, 2005.
- The Five W's of Online Help. by Geoff Hart, TECHWR-L. Retrieved on May 15, 2005.
- The Five W's. Journaling Help. Retrieved on May 15, 2005.
- Five More Ws for Good Journalism. COPY EDITING, InlandPress. Retrieved on May 15, 2005.