Last time I blogged about making time as opposed to finding time. Time is a constant for all of us. Wouldn’t it be nice to write more effectively in a shorter amount of time?
Well, you can. If you’re a journalism grad, you know this already though you may not have realized how important it is in the real world. If you didn’t go to journalism school, you may be struggling to write salable content.
Here’s one way that will help you as soon as you put it into practice.
Use the Pyramid Style of Writing.
I greatly admired the late Gary Provost, an excellent writer and teacher. Mr. Provost advocated the Pyramid Style. Newspapers once used this method exclusively. Now, you can find articles in newspapers that don’t adhere to this discipline, and they’re immensely irritating.
Think of a pyramid. The base is broad. The top is a point. Now think of any article or blog you write. You’ve got a lot of information to impart, but of all that information, what is the most important part? What is it that readers want to know and want to know immediately? That focused data is the point of the pyramid. The rest of everything you write is filling in and building until you have finished the broad base.
Pyramids don’t rest on the point. They rest on the base. The point is what you see first. That’s how effective writing should be. The point of the article pyramid is the most important information, and it should be in the first paragraph.
Who, what, when, where, and why.
That’s what’s important. That’s what readers want to know. That’s what should be in paragraph 1. Then you use the rest of your research to fill in the supporting information in subsequent paragraphs.
One reason this pyramid style was prevalent in newspapers was because if a writer turned in 9 inches of copy but there was only space for 8 then the editor whacked an inch off the bottom. Oops. If the pertinent info was at the end, it got chopped.
Now we have computers where copy can be edited quickly, but the pyramid style will help you organize your thoughts and your supporting data. If you know what goes into paragraph 1, it’s a lot easier to write the other paragraphs that give the support info and all the details.
Readers want this style of construction. Remember I mentioned being irritated by some newspaper articles now? It’s because you have to skim through every paragraph to find the focused info you need. Who has the time for that? When I read something like that on a web page or blog, I just keep surfing. It’s tedious.
Actually, SEO writing grew out of the pyramid style. Putting those keywords and key phrases in the first couple of sentences conforms to pyramid style.
Use pyramid style for short articles, reports, blogs, anything you write where you want to organize your thoughts quickly and write fast and clearly.
Even though Internet writing and print writing are different in some respects, both benefit from good writing techniques.
James: Thanks for your comment. Actually, I referenced the Pyramid style by saying Gary Provost called it that (as opposed to inverted pyramid). It is a valid form for web writing when used well. Good writing never “forces” information into an info dump at the beginning just as good writing doesn’t have fluff below the important stuff. It has supporting, additional information which just isn’t as critical as the info at the beginning.
You are completely correct about the importance of hook sentences. I wrote a blog just the other day about that at Sling Words.
However, as to making an information article a mystery… Well, most people read fiction if they want to read a mystery. If they’re reading Internet articles, odds are they’re looking for information, not mystery.
Of course, that’s why there are so many writers who address the same subject. What resonates for one reader may be different from what speaks to another.
Poolman Jack: Thanks for the comment. Glad the post helped.
I am a great admirer of the Pyramid style – Excellent and informative post. Boil your information down to the most important points.
Firstly, I just wanted to mention that the style you refer to is the inverted pyramid style to writing.
This method is, indeed, effective for magazine writing and newspaper writing, but I am not so confident on how well it molds into the blogosphere. For me, personally, I’d rather have the in-depth information.
Let’s be honest—most blog posts are either a picture and a paragraph or an in-depth discussion. I’d rather have this in-depth discussion progress logically than trying to force as much of the important stuff in the beginning. My focus would be readability and understanding over giving users everything they need to know in the first paragraph. Not only are bloggers informing the public, but they are entertaining the public as well.
Now, I do realize that some blogs could benefit from this style (e.g. technology news blogs), but for the blogger who writes in other specific niches, it might not be the way to go.
The key to draw in readers is to draw them in with the first paragraph, the first sentence, maybe even the first word. If you get them in, they will read the content as long as it is concise and well-written. You want to present the topic of discussion, and draw the user in to make them want to continue reading on.
I prefer to make things somewhat of a mystery, and as the article progresses, I build up continuously enlightening the reader. Once they reach the end of the article, they will receive the overall point of everything, and they will have already read all the information to understand my reasoning behind all of it. I try to make an “ahhhh, I get it!” moment.
Truthfully, it might not attract the 15 year old gamer who wants everything in an instant, but for many of my readers, it works out quite well. Plus, I don’t aim to have my audience be the 15 year old gaming crowd. I’m only 21, by the way. 😛
This is the difference between old media and the blogosphere. Here, in the blogosphere, we can take our time to give everyone the little details that old media couldn’t. Why try to be something else when we can have our own unique style?
Again, the inverted pyramid style to writing is great, but its application is not universal. For me, it isn’t as effective for my particular writing style, but it is still useful for many writers out there. If I’m writing news stories, then, yes, it is effective, but if not, then this method is kicked out the door immediately.
That is just my approach to writing. Still, some great tips here. Thanks for bringing up the old inverted pyramid style to writing. Very useful.