Inverted Pyramid Writing

How to Write with the Inverted Pyramid

Learn the structure that every journalist knows- The Inverted Pyramid! Inverted pyramid writing helps organize your writing & capture readers!

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What is the Inverted Pyramid Writing Style?

Inverted pyramid writing is the journalistic style of writing that puts the most pertinent and essential information at the top of an article or piece. This writing style captures a reader’s interest quickly and easily, as readers can instantly understand what an essay or paper is about. 

The rest of the article then works its way down in order of decreasing importance until all essential details are included. It also follows a hierarchical approach, prompting readers to learn more as they read further. This organizational style is an excellent tool for news reporting when delivering information quickly and efficiently is paramount.

Purpose of Inverted Pyramid Writing

Inverted pyramid writing is used in many fields, such as journalism, marketing, and academic writing. Its purpose is to help writers communicate their messages quickly and effectively. 

With this type of writing, the most crucial information is put in the first paragraph so readers can immediately get the key points. The idea behind inverted pyramid writing is to ensure readers can access the content they need without going through long, tedious passages of text. 

This way, people can quickly grasp critical information and take necessary action. By using this method of writing, writers can structure content clearly and concisely while drawing readers in with concise language and powerful imagery.

The tiers of the Inverted Pyramid explained:

Now, let’s look at the three tiers of the inverted Pyramid. We’ll discuss each level and what information goes in each section. 

Top Tier – Crucial Information (who, what, where, when, why)

Inverted pyramid top teir

From a journalistic perspective, the top tier of the inverted Pyramid is significant. This first section is designed to capture a reader’s attention, and as a writer, you must use it wisely. Without that headline-grabbing element, there is no point in even writing the story. 

Additionally, it is beneficial to preface the story within this part of the structure, making sure the most important details are laid out before diving into specific details. 

A writer clarifies a situation or topic by answering the quintessential ‘who, what, where, when, and why’ questions. 

  • Who refers to the person or people involved
  • What covers any objects or topics associated with the situation
  • Where refers to the location
  • When is an indication of the time frame. 
  • Why is an exploration of the reasons behind the situation. 

Together, they tell a fuller story. Providing a reader a comprehensive grasp of each factor can provide valuable insight into any given circumstance.

Overall, having an effective top tier provides journalists and writers with an invaluable tool for delivering their work.

Middle Tier – Contextual details

middle tier of the inverted pyramid

At the middle tier of the inverted Pyramid lies arguably the most crucial piece of every story – context. Context is essential in conveying meaning to a story, broadening the audience’s understanding, and creating an emotional connection. 

The middle tier typically provides evidence, helps explain complex ideas, or gives a deeper look into a particular concept. It’s important to include relevant detail while maintaining focus on the main point so as not to overwhelm readers and distract them from the piece’s message. 

This section is also a good place to provide quotes from expert’s on a subject, or eyewitnesses. In other words, find primary source evidence that supports your main idea.

Without this section, stories can feel unbalanced and lack the critical context that brings important nuance and insight to the reader. By providing relevant information in this portion, writers create a comprehensive narrative that keeps readers engaged.

Bottom Tier- Concluding Ideas

The bottom tier of the inverted Pyramid is a crucial element when structuring an essay. It provides the foundation for the rest of the article and allows for an organized conclusion.

Once all supporting details have been discussed, writers can transition into concluding ideas that summarize their main argument. In an essay this is a good place to restate your main idea or thesis.

Develop this bottom layer in a way that creates strong support for the piece’s main idea while providing readers with ideas or solutions to consider.

Read more about writing conclusions here.

History of the Inverted Pyramid

The inverted pyramid writing style, or “pyramid journalism,” has existed since the early 1800s. It was developed by telegraph-era newspaper correspondents who wanted to report important news concisely and effectively.

This writing style, known as “lede writing,” quickly became a standard. The style ensured that news was presented in an organized way that prioritized key points at the beginning of a story gradually expanded upon. During World War I, the inverted pyramid structure was popular with press agencies like Reuters and AP when conveying time-sensitive information was paramount.

Since then, inverted pyramid writing has been the dominant form used by newspapers, radio, and television broadcasters alike. To this day, it remains one of the most effective ways to organize written content so readers can identify critical information quickly while still being able to find new details further down the page.

How to use the Inverted Pyramid in your writing

Step 1: Give the Key Details 

The inverted pyramid writing style is ideal for those who want to get quickly to the point in their writing. It involves focusing on the most important aspects upfront while gradually providing additional details. 

Begin your article or essay by composing a thesis statement or lead sentence that captures the main points of your writing.

Next, provide details by answering the “Five Ws” to ensure readers find all the relevant information at the top of your piece. 

  • Who are the key figures in your story? 
  • What are they doing, or what have they done?
  • Where did the event take place? What are the relevant locations?
  • When did this happen?
  • Why is this story important or relevant to your readers?

Step 2: Add Context 

Following that, add supporting evidence, including:

  • commentary from experts
  • data from surveys or studies 
  • as well as anecdotes from people affiliated with the topic

Demonstrate why these are relevant to the topic and then expand upon them one by one.

Step 3: Discuss Minor Points/ Present Conclusions

Lastly, include all other minor points that don’t overcomplicate or distract from what was already established. This structure lets readers quickly understand what is happening without skimming through excessive content.

Inverted Pyramid writing for comprehension

Inverted pyramid writing helps readers comprehend the content quickly and easily. Rather than creating a long narrative filled with background information, this style breaks down relevant details into digestible snippets that draw attention to the most important facts. 

This form of writing helps busy readers quickly identify whether the article is something they’ll find interesting or helpful. From there, readers can dig deeper into the piece as much as they’d like. 

Rather than presenting all available facts at once, this focused approach enables writers to provide only essential details that result in better comprehension and appreciation for their work.

Inverted Pyramid Example:

One of the earliest examples of the inverted Pyramid comes from the New York Herald reporting the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln: 

“This evening at about 9:30 p.m. at Ford’s Theatre, the President, while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harris and Major Rathburn, was shot by an assassin, who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President.

The assassin then leaped upon the stage, brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape in the rear of the theatre.

The pistol ball entered the back of the President’s head and penetrated nearly through the head. The wound is mortal.

The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted, and is now dying.

About the same hour an assassin, whether the same or not, entered Mr. Seward’s apartment and under pretense of having a prescription was shown to the Secretary’s sick chamber. The assassin immediately rushed to the bed and inflicted two or three stabs on the chest and two on the face. It is hoped the wounds may not be mortal. My apprehension is that they will prove fatal.

The nurse alarmed Mr. Frederick Seward, who was in an adjoining rented room, and he hastened to the door of his father’s room, when he met the assassin, who inflicted upon him one or more dangerous wounds. The recovery of Frederick Seward is doubtful.

It is not probable that the President will live through the night.” – Edwin M.Stanton, President Lincoln Shot by an Assassin

Inverted Pyramid Writing Exercise:

Write a three paragraph inverted pyramid based on one (or more) of the following:

  • The Fall of Humpty Dumpy
  • Goldilocks Breaks Into the House of Local Bear Family
  • Pied Piper Ransoms an Entire Town
  • Beast Kidnaps a Young Peasant Girl
  • Red-hooded Girl Almost Eaten by Masquerading Wolf
  • Chicken Panics, Proclaims End of World

Contintued reading on the Inverted Pyramid:

The Inverted Pyramid- Purdue OWL

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