Using 5W/H Filter & Creating Longer, Better Conversations


What is the 5W/H filter? Who can use this technique? Where can English students use the 5W/H filter in daily conversations? When can they use this method? Why do many journalists and managers use the 5W/H filter in their work? How can the 5W/H filter keep conversations going?

Some English students will already be familiar with the idea of 5W/H as the general question words: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. This checklist approach encourages speakers to bring these questions directly back into the conversation. Can you guess how it works?

When you are asked a question, practice running the answer through the “5W/H Filter.” Make sure you answer at least two of the question words to provide details. Let’s look at an example of a typical casual conversation.

Nick: What did you do this weekend?

Nobu: I went shopping.

Nick: That’s good.


Nick: See you later.

This short conversation might be pleasant, but it wasn’t too informative. Now let’s run the conversation through the 5W/H filter.

Question: “What did you do this weekend?”


What: Went shopping

Who: With my sister

When: Saturday

Where: At the outlet

Why: We were looking for a present for our brother’s birthday.

How: We rode our bicycles.

With the filter in place, Nobu has several places to take the conversation. When Nobu chooses to share at least three of the filtered answers, it’s much more interesting and compelling. Nick may then continue the conversation in several directions. Let’s take a look at how the conversation might go:

Nick: What did you do this weekend?

Nobu: I went shopping at the outlet on Saturday with my sister. We were looking
for a present for our brother’s birthday.

Nick: Oh, really? How old will your brother be?


Nick: How is the outlet? I haven’t been there yet.


Nick: I didn’t know you had a sister! How many people are in your family?

By providing details, Nobu and Nick learn more and share more about their lives and activities. They can also maintain longer, better conversations. If they want, Nobu and Nick can cycle through the 5W/H filter again, and the two can talk for as long as they want! The good friends will learn more about each other and their friendship can
become even stronger.


Interested in learning more? Check out our sample chapter, Exploring Daily Habits from Compelling Conversations – Japan. Want your own copy? Click here for more information!

Ask More. Know More. Share More.

Create Compelling Conversations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *