1. One rule to rule them all
2. Sydney writing course next week!
Apologies to “Lord of the Rings,” but you must know this principle. Use it, and your readers will say “My preciousss...” when reading your emails or letters. Forget it, and you'll seem like Gollum on a bad day.
Here it is: Inverted Pyramid. Or, “Big News First.”
The opposite of inverted pyramid is story structure. People love stories. But most business readers are time poor; they just want the main point, and fast. Write in story structure and your main character could be “delete.”
Stories follow “pyramid” structure, going from context, to supporting information, to climax (the “big news”).
But news journalists write with inverted-pyramid structure; they lead with the Big News First, then backfill with progressively less important information.
So if you write to your boss, explaining that your project is going well, don't say this:
“Since we started XYZ project, we've had various financial, logistical and HR problems... [etc.] But we solved them, and the project's going well and is on track.”
What if she's too busy to get to the good news? She'll just read the bad and think you're struggling. So say the big news first, giving her the option of not reading it all if she's swamped:
“XYZ project is on track to be completed within budget. We've overcome various financial, logistical and HR problems... [etc.]”
Apply Big News First to most things you write, and your readers will love you for saving them time.
Have your say...
...on our blog! And to kick off the conversation: When shouldn't you use inverted pyramid?