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How to Write the Best Articles With Inverted Pyramid Structure

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 3 min read

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Journalists use the inverted pyramid style to write articles that are attention-grabbing and efficient.



Malcolm Gladwell Teaches WritingMalcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing

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When journalists write an article, their goal is usually to convey the most important information in a way that’s clear, concise, and attractive to readers. That’s why the inverted pyramid technique is so common. The inverted pyramid has become the industry standard, and can be found in such venerable journalistic institutions as The Associated Press and The New York Times.

What Is Inverted Pyramid Structure?

Inverted pyramid is a method of news writing in which the broadest, most important points are delivered at the top of the story, followed by additional details. The inverted pyramid writing style is designed to grab the reader’s attention as quickly as possible, presenting the most important details in the lead paragraph and then filling in the story with increasingly specific supporting information as the article proceeds.

The inverted pyramid style can trace its origins to the invention of the telegraph, which revolutionized the way that news was transmitted. News outlets would communicate the most important information in the first sentence so that it would arrive first when sent out over the wires. By the Civil War, the inverted pyramid structure was well on its way to becoming the industry standard for delivering new stories.

Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing
Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing
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3 Reasons to Use Inverted Pyramid Structure

In the modern era of content saturation and short attention spans, the inverted pyramid method is more widely used than ever. There are a number of reasons why this style of writing is used in news writing, academic writing, and essay writing:

  1. Inverted pyramid hooks readers quickly. Front-loading your story is an attention-grabbing way to hook your reader in the first paragraph. In the age of scrolling and skim-reading, the inverted pyramid writing technique can increase the likelihood of getting eyeballs on your story.
  2. Inverted pyramid gets your point across. Placing your article’s information in a descending order of importance means that your reader will get the main point of your article within the first few sentences.
  3. Inverted pyramid allows for SEO optimization. The inverted pyramid writing style ensures that the most relevant pieces of information and keywords will be in the first few sentences of your article, which will make it more likely that search engines will find and amplify your work.

How to Use Inverted Pyramid Structure When Writing an Article

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In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.

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Whether you’re writing a press release, essay, or news article, the inverted pyramid can enhance your work’s clarity and readability. Here are some writing tips to follow when applying the inverted pyramid structure:

  • Start with the lead. In your story’s lead, you should be answering five important questions: Who did the thing of interest? What did they do? Where did they do it? When did they do it? Why did they do it? Your lead should offer these key points as quickly as possible, getting to the essence of your story in approximately thirty words or one to two short paragraphs. The lead may also include a hook to your story, such as an enticing quote or provocative detail, that encourages people to keep reading.
  • Continue with the body. The body is where you offer supporting details, quotes from sources, and additional supplementary information. The information in the body should be organized in terms of importance, with the most essential info appearing earlier in the story.
  • Finish with pertinent background information. Appearing last in inverted pyramid story structure is a section of additional related information. While this info is still helpful to fully understand the context of the story, it is less important than the information contained in the lead and the body. Oftentimes the final paragraphs will provide a list of supplementary reading material, links to prior reporting on the subject, or a kicker that ends your story on an intriguing, humorous, or impactful note.

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