Inverted Pyramid Style
What is the Inverted Pyramid?
In journalism, this method of starting with your conclusion is called the Inverted Pyramid style. Sometimes referred to as Front-Loading, it means you should put your most important information first when writing for the web.
This style is called an ‘inverted’ pyramid simply because it is an upside-down pyramid with the most important information at the top.
This style of web writing or news story writing has many benefits:
- Readers can quickly assess whether they want to read your entire article.
- Readers can stop reading at any point and still come away with the main point of your article.
- By starting with your conclusion, the first few sentences on your web page will contain most of your relevant keywords, boosting your SEO.
- By front-loading each paragraph, you allow your readers to skim through the first sentences of every paragraph to get a quick overview of your entire article. (See below for how to front-load your paragraphs).
Start with your conclusion
Journalists are taught to write news stories using this inverted pyramid structure. They front-load their story, putting the essential and most attention-grabbing elements first, followed by supporting or explanatory information in order of diminishing importance. The least important information is at the bottom. This style allows newspaper readers to skim their newspapers for a quick news update; they can choose to read only partway through an article knowing that the information they fail to read at the end is not going to be as important as the information at the beginning. This style also has the advantage of allowing editors to chop off the bottom of articles at any point so that the story will fit into the required space on a newspaper page. When the least important information is at the bottom, articles can be easily shortened by editors without damaging the structure of the story.
Front-loading is different to the style you were taught in school or university for essay-writing. To write an essay, you start with an introduction and you gradually build up to your conclusion. To write effectively for the web, you need to do the opposite, and come to the point immediately.
This style calls for a very direct approach. If you spoke in this manner, it would be considered blunt and perhaps a little rude. But it is the preferred style for Internet readers. So be direct. Make your point first, then explain it.
Don’t lose your audience
By front-loading your web content, you are more likely to keep your readers on the page. Today’s Internet users are impatient for results. If they cannot quickly and easily assess your article for points of interest, they are likely to leave your webpage and go search for an alternative that is easier to skim.
How to write in the inverted pyramid style
To Front-load your article:
Write a brief summary or overview of your article in a few sentences. Include your most important keywords in the summary and put it at the beginning of your article. This allows users to quickly assess what your article is about, and helps search engines to identify your most important keywords.
To Front-load every paragraph:
- Limit each paragraph to one main point or idea.
- Start each paragraph with the main point or conclusion in the first one or two sentences.
- Then go on to explain your point.
By doing this, you allow your readers to skim your entire article and get an overview of it by simply reading the first sentence or two of each paragraph. They can also scan your content, looking for points of interest, without having to read every paragraph to the end.
To Front-load your headlines:
Start your headings with significant words. The first words then communicate the subject matter, and catch the eye of your reader. Well-composed headings at the beginning of each section will help your readers to skim and scan the entire article looking for points of interest.
Inverted Pyramid video
The following 4-minute video reaffirms many of the points made above.
- Inverted Pyramid style is essential for mobile content. Learn how you can optimise your mobile content.
- For a history of the Inverted Pyramid style in Journalism, see Writing-from-the-top-down-pros-and-cons-of-the-inverted-pyramid
- Research has proven that users like to read scannable text on the Web, and this means writing in the Inverted Pyramid style. See Jacob Neilsen’s article, How Users Read on the Web