To steal a mantra from our friends in journalism: don’t bury the lede. The idea might have started in newspaper offices but it applies anywhere we’re competing for our audience’s attention (so, the entire Internet). In short, don’t force someone to read your whole page in order to ‘get’ the point. A ‘linear stream of consciousness’ is not a useful writing style. Start strong. Lead with compelling ideas. That’s how you’ll hook your reader.

The inverted pyramid

One way to visualize this tactic is to imagine an inverted pyramid. Front load your headline and intro statements with the most critical and compelling details—an emotionally persuasive conclusion or call to action. Follow up with supporting facts and finish with background details or your movement story.

The inverted pyramid

This is basically the opposite of academic writing which often leads with background information, follows with supporting facts, and ends with a closing argument. This, like all the most effective communication tactics for web, will require many of us to un-learn the academic writing styles drummed into us by the education system. This might feel awkward and unintuitive, but it gets easier. And importantly, it works.

Why it works

  • Grabs attention
  • Lowers bounce rate
  • Supports multiple CTA launch points which caters to both high and low attention spans
  • Serves skim readers
  • Improves comprehension
  • Good for SEO and keyword targeting
  • Encourages scrolling

When the inverted pyramid works best

When your objective is to inform, to provide commentary, or to spread an idea—the inverted pyramid works very well. In these cases, ‘top down’ structures maximize reach and comprehension by catering to wide range of reader behavior.

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When to avoid the pyramid

It won’t make sense to wedge every piece of communication into some form of upside-down triangle. Different structures will suit different objectives. ‘How-tos’ and ‘listicles’, for example, gain nothing from the inverted pyramid structure. Sometimes leading with a ‘knowledge gap’ to spark intrigue can more effectively meet your needs. And for challenging content whose objective is behavior change, leading with the ‘conclusion’ can at times be abrupt and counterproductive.

Whichever structure you use, lead with a strong, compelling idea and a headline that offers a clear value proposition. This will capture attention and buy you time to hook your reader.

From: 7 traits of a clear writing style

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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