- Who is it about?
- What happened?
- When did it take place?
- Where did it take place?
- Why did it happen?
- How did it happen?
In British education, the Five Ws are used in Key Stage 3 lessons.
RhetoricThis section focuses on the history of the series of questions as a way of formulating or analyzing rhetorical questions, and not the theory of circumstances in general.
The rhetor Hermagoras of Temnos, as quoted in pseudo-Augustine's De Rhetorica defined seven "circumstances" (μόρια περιστάσεως 'elements of circumstance') as the loci of an issue:
- Quis, quid, quando, ubi, cur, quem ad modum, quibus adminiculis.
- (Who, what, when, where, why, in what way, by what means)
Victorinus explained Cicero's system of circumstances by putting them into correspondence with Hermagoras's questions:
Boethius "made the seven circumstances fundamental to the arts of prosecution and defense":
- Quis, quid, cur, quomodo, ubi, quando, quibus auxiliis.
- (Who, what, why, how, where, when, with what)
To administer suitable penance to sinners, the 21st canon of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) enjoined confessors to investigate both sins and the circumstances of the sins. The question form was popular for guiding confessors, and it appeared in several different forms:
- Quis, quid, ubi, per quos, quoties, cur, quomodo, quando.
- Quis, quid, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando.
- Quis, quid, ubi, cum quo, quotiens, cur, quomodo, quando.
- Quid, quis, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando.
- Quid, ubi, quare, quantum, conditio, quomodo, quando: adiuncto quoties.
Later, Thomas Wilson wrote in English verse:
Who, what, and where, by what helpe, and by whose:In the 19th century US, Prof. William Cleaver Wilkinson popularized the "Three Ws" – What? Why? What of it? – as a method of Bible study in the 1880s, though he did not claim originality. This became the "Five Ws", though the application was rather different from that in journalism:
Why, how, and when, doe many things disclose.
"What? Why? What of it?" is a plan of study of alliterative methods for the teacher emphasized by Professor W.C. Wilkinson not as original with himself but as of venerable authority. "It is, in fact," he says, "an almost immemorial orator's analysis. First the facts, next the proof of the facts, then the consequences of the facts. This analysis has often been expanded into one known as "The Five Ws:" "When? Where? Who? What? Why?" Hereby attention is called, in the study of any lesson: to the date of its incidents; to their place or locality; to the person speaking or spoken to, or to the persons introduced, in the narrative; to the incidents or statements of the text; and, finally, to the applications and uses of the lesson teachings.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:
- 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.
By 1917, the "Five Ws" were being taught in high-school journalism classes, and by 1940, the tendency of journalists to address all of the "Five Ws" within the lead paragraph of an article was being characterized as old-fashioned and fallacious:
The old-fashioned lead of the five Ws and the H, crystallized largely by Pulitzer's "new journalism" and sanctified by the schools, is widely giving way to the much more supple and interesting feature lead, even on straight news stories.
All of you know about — and I hope all of you admit the fallacy of — the doctrine of the five Ws in the first sentence of the newspaper story.