Writing in inverted pyramid

Writing in inverted pyramid

By admin

(Editor’s Note: This blog post was written by by ENC’s 2013 Strategic Communication Intern, Anisha Thadani.)

There are more than 150 million active English-language blogs on the Internet, according to Nielsen estimates published in 2011. But what separates the best ones from the mediocre ones? It all starts with a writing style that hooks readers immediately with information that is properly organized for the web. Even before the Internet, journalists described this style with the term “inverted pyramid.”

Back to basics

Inverted pyramid is an upside-down content structure that places the most important information first (think of it as putting the foundation at the top).

The top tier consists of the five Ws and one H — who, what, when, where, why and how. Usually, this is your first – or lede – sentence. The second tier, sometimes called a nut graf, includes the important details that flesh out the piece. These add substance to the writing, but are written in a manner such that the relevant information comes before the minute details. The bottommost portion of the content, your body copy, consists of other information that is not essential to the story but adds enough to give the reader everything else they might want to know.

Inverted pyramid has been an industry standard to journalists for years, but it has become ideal for businesses now because we live in a time when more people are incredibly technology savvy and increasingly impatient. Fueled by Generation Y, but certainly encompassing other demographics, users now expect their information to be immediate and accurate.

Remember the prevalence of social media. For example, Twitter forces users to present their information in 140 characters or fewer, which in turn forces every writer to get information out in the quickest and most effective way possible.

Out of the social media wave we’ve seen an immense amount of technological advances. Smartphones and tablets are increasing information accessibility a great deal, as it is predicted by Microsoft that mobile Internet use will be greater than desktop internet use by 2014.

Other blog-writing tips

It all starts with a headline. Not only is your headline going to be the first thing your reader sees, it will play a large role in whether or not they continue reading. Along with being eye-catching, keep in mind that an SEO-optimized headline will allow for a greater search engine presence and result in more readers.

We all know the phrase “content is king,” but a balancing act exists between managing content and knowing your audience. Every piece that is published should have a clear focus and targeted audience such that writing pertains to exactly what they want to see.

Keep things simple. Write in short paragraphs to avoid a visually unappealing text block, and remember to use plain language – there is jargon in every sector. Avoid turning away readers through the use of words or phrases that only specialists would understand.

Pyramid payoff

Writing in inverted pyramid will not only make your writing better, but also it will make it more shareable. No one is going to want to send a lengthy, unorganized post to his or her friends or colleagues. It will also allow readers to read from top to bottom without having to dig for significant information. In addition, if you know your audience and produce content in a manner that they know and love, it is more likely that your blog will be shared and therefore read by more people within that group.

Using these tactics in your blog writing will help you target the new and ever-changing markets we now live in, making your content strategy effective, targeted and purposeful. The return on investment for content created in this manner will far outweigh the performance of random musings about industry flashes in the pan.

Need some more help on inverted pyramid? Check out Purdue’s Online Writing Lab for a more in-depth explanation.

Image courtesy Flickr user llee_wu

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