June 26, 2017

Combat fatigue

Are you using a 150-year-old story format?

At about the time this Union soldier marched off to war, journalists invented the traditional news structure that you use every day.

Let’s pause and ponder that for a minute.

Combat fatigue

Talk about old school The inverted pyramid was invented for a technology that was new more than 150 years ago, at about the same time that this guy headed off to battle. Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

You know the inverted pyramid — that hierarchical blurtation of facts that starts with the most important element and moves to the least.

It’s often paired with the fact pack, where you stuff who, what, when, where, why and how into the first paragraph. (I always wondered, if you cover all the W’s in the lead, what’s left for the second paragraph?)

But where did this thing come from?

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“Think of the inverted pyramid as — yawn! — your high school U.S. history teacher. The feature-style story structure is Hamilton: An American Musical.
— Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications Inc.

Tear down the pyramid

It’s time to find a better way

Writers say, “We use the inverted pyramid because readers stop reading after the first paragraph.”

But 25 years of research shows that readers say, “We stop reading after the first paragraph because you use the inverted pyramid.”

Tear down the inverted pyramid image

Tear down the inverted pyramid The traditional news structure “does not work well with readers,” according to 25 years of research. Image by Bogdan Prohorenko. © Wylie Communications Inc.

Researchers for The Poynter Institute, the Readership Institute and The American Society of News Editors agree: The inverted pyramid doesn’t work with humans. Even the Associated Press has announced that it is now sending out feature leads with each of its news stories.

The good news is, there is a story structure that increases readership and improves brand perception. And you can master that more effective structure at Catch Your Readers — a two-day writing Master Class on June 28-29 in San Diego.

There, you’ll learn three elements of a great lead (and five leads to avoid), how to avoid the “muddle in the middle,” and a three-step test for ending with a bang.

You can save $100 with our early bird discounts, but only if you act by May 28. Don’t miss out. Register now.

“I am a better writer today than I was two days ago.”
— Chelsea Didde Rice, communications specialist, Ascend Learning

Polish your skills at our upcoming Master Classes

Learn to Catch Your Readers, Get Clicked, Cut Through the Clutter and more

Register for tight writing workshop in Chicago on May 11-12
Register for writing workshop in San Diego on June 28-29

Register for PR writing workshop in Portland on July 27-28
Register for Online writing workshop in New York on Sept. 28-29

Register for writing workshop in Houston on Nov. 2-3
Register for Creative writing workshop in Los Angeles on Feb. 23-24, 2017
Rather bring Ann in to train your whole team?

Catch Ann on the road

Save when you book a workshop while I’m in your neighborhood

Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:

  • Chicago: May 11-12
  • Houston: Nov. 2-3
  • Los Angeles: Feb. 23-24
  • New Orleans: June 6-8
  • New York: Sept. 28-29
  • Portland: July 27-28
  • San Diego: June 28-29

Keep up with my calendar.