Background is essential but good writers take great care where they choose to place it. Too much background too high in the story is a switch-off for readers; however, a little explanation and context is usually needed quite quickly – is this event a ‘first’?, for instance, or maybe it is a tit-for-tat situation or a court case where a charge needs to be explained briefly. The trick is to weave such ‘instant’ background into the running narrative, rather than interrupt the flow by inserting a whole slab. “Dabs, not slabs,” as the late, great George Short, Reuters Training Editor, used to say. More next week about how to handle in-depth background.