Inverted pyramid: what is it, what is it for and how to use it?

Written by Claudia Roca

Inverted pyramid

Blog » Inverted pyramid: what is it, what is it for and how to use it?

The inverted pyramid is the preferred tool of journalists for quick news writing. However, thanks to its enormous effectiveness in writing, it has become one of the preferred writing structures for online and offline marketing.

This technique consists of starting the text with the most important information, giving the reader an overall of everything he or she needs to know, without giving everything away. Overall that is easy to read and understand at a glance.

Here we will tell you everything you need to know about the inverted pyramid, how to use it, and what techniques you can complement it with (and we will also use the structure of the inverted pyramid for you to see it in practice). 

And so, we will start with:

Table of Content

The advantages of using the inverted pyramid

These are 6 of the benefits -but not all that the inverted pyramid can provide you with:

Ease of reading: this structure is perfect for simplifying information and presenting it in a clean, orderly, and attractive way. And the more legible and easy to understand your texts are, the more readers will want to keep reading. 

Brevity: this aspect is key in the digital world. This format is ideal to get rid of overwhelming blocks of text and turn them into reader-friendly content. In addition, the reader will be able to scan and understand the content in a matter of seconds.

Speeding up writing: The inverted pyramid was designed to convey information and write at incredible speeds. Likewise, edit, adjust, trim, synthesize, optimize, and even rewrite and maintain the focus of your content. 

Versatility: the inverted pyramid is designed for quick news, but it’s perfect for articles, blog posts, press releases, social media posts, newsletters, video scripts, and other presentations.

Dynamism: the inverted pyramid works for a wide variety of formats, such as news flash, articles, press releases, social media posts, synopses, summaries, emails, video scripts, newsletters, and landing pages, among others. 

SEO: knowing how to apply the inverted pyramid will allow you to climb positions in search engines. This format is great for understanding users’ search intent and using it as a basis for your content, and even for playing with SEO elements, such as featured snippets*.

*Featured snippets: those snippets (images, specific answers, excerpts, carousels…) that appear when searching online. 

As you will see, this technique is very effective in synthesizing your content, speeding up your creative process and improving your texts for your readers and search engines. 

advantages inverted pyramid

The disadvantages you have to consider

The inverted pyramid is not an exact formula to apply to all your content. It’s also essential to know when NOT to use it.

This structure does not apply to all cases and has some unfavorable points. For example:

  • It’s not so functional when we talk about long texts, texts where you must keep the reader’s attention, generate interest and provide more exhaustive information.
  • It’s also not the ideal option for storytelling.
  • If used incorrectly, the information in the content can become vague, superficial, and insubstantial.
  • It can be very, very direct when it comes to selling and can take away space to add arguments, statistics, and testimonials.
  • Some consider that the pyramid makes all texts look like quick news.

For quick, short, and precise texts where you have to give as much information as possible to the reader as fast as you can, the inverted pyramid is the best option. 

But when we are talking about long and exhaustive texts, texts that require construction, arguments, and a good amount of data, it’s not always the right choice.

How to use the inverted pyramid

First, let’s see what the parts of the pyramid are:

  1. Title.
  2. Entry.
  3. Body.
  4. Punchline.

inverted pyramid

Simple, isn’t it?

From this outline, your pyramid will start to take shape. And that’s where you start to apply the following tips:

1. Define your main idea

This will be the basis and focus of your text. From here, you will be able to provide an overall to the reader and make a breakdown to the specific topics. 

Just like this:

  • Title: this should have a hook that will gain the reader’s interest. In addition, it must summarize -without too many spoilers- what the reader will find in the article.
  • Entry: first paragraph. Here you have to answer the 5 W’s (What, Who, Where, When and Why) and 1H (How).

With these two elements used effectively, the reader will immediately have a fairly clear idea of the article or news item he or she is about to read. 

2. Establish the most important points

Starting from the title, you can define the most important points of your content to address first. Then, move on to the not-so-important and more specific ones.

To provide structure and clarity to your article, we advise you to use headings and subheadings, as descriptive as possible.

Remember, first the main idea and the broadest points and then the more specific ones.

Having the structure, developing your content will be a much easier, faster, and more efficient process. To go deeper, we suggest adding references, statistics, quotes, and complementary points that deepen the main idea and allow you to enrich your content.

3. Enrich your content with extra information

Finally, you can add the following points:

  • History.
  • Curious facts.
  • Frequently asked questions.

Many people usually start their articles with history, historical context, or situational context. However, if you want to present news or emphasize benefits, it’s better to leave the story for later in your content. 

When using the pyramid, it’s best to leave the context for last, so that it can complement your content without distracting the reader from your main points.

FAQs and fun facts can also help you address related points or topics without breaking the hierarchy of your inverted pyramid. 

Note: you can also add the above points after the punchline.

4. Finish with style

To finish, we suggest you make a brief summary of all the content as a conclusion, rephrasing the key points, and without adding additional information that you haven’t already included in your content. 

The punchline can be a summary so that the reader can recapitulate -again, at a glance- what he or she has just read and can better retain all the information in your content. 

Also, in direct sales copy, this is usually the best place to make a call to action. One that compresses the points addressed in your article and turns them into a powerful offer. 

5. Edit, summarize, and simplify

The pyramid simplifies the entire editing process as much as possible, but to make it work, you need to make sure you use simple, concise, and substantial language that can catch your readers’ attention. 

To do this, use simple terms, clear fonts, and any resources that will help you make it easier to read. If necessary -and it will be eliminate irrelevant segments or those that do not fit the structure and purpose of your text.

Where to use the inverted pyramid

1. SEO

The inverted pyramid works great with all kinds of search engines. This structure allows you to develop texts that are well adapted to users, scannable for readers, and search engine friendly.

And texts that do respond to search intent and use clear structures and resources to facilitate reading have a better and better chance of climbing the search engine rankings.

And again, it can be used as a strategic approach and even as an agile methodology for related tasks, such as content planning and analysis and keyword research, among others.

2. Marketing

Because this structure does not only apply to SEO. 

The inverted pyramid is already one of the preferred tools of marketers for online and offline marketing. Especially for copy, blogposts, social media posts, landing pages, and newsletters. 

It’s also perfect as a strategic approach when setting editorial calendars and developing content strategies. Even when sending briefings and press releases.

3. Journalism 

This format is designed for fast news, powerful headlines, scoops, and news summaries.

It’s also perfect for transmitting news, making summaries, and speeding up the writing and editing processes, which is indispensable in the world of journalism. 

Where not to use the inverted pyramid

  • Broad and comprehensive content: including long-form and pillar articles, reports, research, e-books, manuals and, above all, whitepapers, among others. In these cases, the pyramid alone is very superficial and cannot efficiently cover so much information, although it can be used in specific segments.
  • Stories and case studies: in these cases, it’s best to develop a narrative that can engage the reader part by part. Not to mention that narratives also require excitement, suspense, and unpredictability.

Other structural approaches to enrich your writing

  • Questions and answers (Q & A): this is the preferred format for interviews, both by journalists and marketers. It’s also perfect for help sections, FAQs, and reviews. 
  • Storytelling: the classic format that many of us think of when we start writing. Perfect for case studies, stories, and testimonials. Also for longer content, such as scripts, and literary texts (not so applicable to marketing), such as short stories, novels, and poems. 
  • Chronology or timeline: to present facts chronologically. Perfect for case studies, but also for About Me pages and slide presentations. 

History of the inverted pyramid

The inverted pyramid dates back to the Civil War. It was created by telegraph operators to transmit all information from reporters and correspondents in the field quickly and efficiently.

This scheme soon became popular in the field of journalism. Thus, what was first a method to simplify communications became in a few decades the preferred structure of journalists and media outlets around the world.

Today, the inverted pyramid remains one of the best structures for journalists, marketers, and editors in general to this day. 

Ready to apply the inverted pyramid?

An inverted pyramid is an invaluable tool for your repertoire. Plus, it can help you write amazing, results-driven copy with less time and effort. 

And when well complemented with other strategies, it can go from being an effective tool to a real game-changer.

Now, it’s your turn.

Tell us in the comments if you already knew about the inverted pyramid and how you plan to use it. Or, ask us anything we missed.

And if you liked our article, don’t forget to share it with your friends and colleagues to let them know the benefits of this writing technique.



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