The Inverted Pyramid News Story
A traditional story begins slowly with some scene setting provides background information, rises to a climax, and often ends with additional information about what happened after the climax.
A basic news story, however, begins with the climax and records all additional information in order of declining importance.
This is commonly known as the "Inverted Pyramid" story structure, because the order of precedence of facts can be illustrated as an upside-down pyramid.
The most important facts are placed where the pyramid is fattest.
The Five Ws and the H, obviously, should be found in the first few paragraphs of such a story.
The style of writing is also known as the "wire service style," because it was early wire services - which transmitted accounts of breaking news from remote locations by wire - that pioneered this method of writing.
Like any form of communications, the inverted pyramid news story has certain limitations. For example, it can sometimes be more confusing than a chronological account of an event - it's the reporter's job to ensure it makes sense. In addition, it is most certainly more difficult to write a clear Inverted Pyramid story than it is to write a chronological story.
Advantages of Inverted Pyramid format
- It provided a format to convey information in a quick and efficient way.
- It served as an aid to readers who wanted to use the newspaper as an index of the day's news - that is, by scanning the lead sentence, readers could determine if
they wanted to learn more or skip to something they found more relevant.
It allowed, at least on the face of it, a format for providing a dispassionate and unbiased account of events.
- It permitted different publications that might assign differing importance to a given story to conveniently edit any story to a length that suited its priorities.
For these reasons, the Inverted Pyramid news story has become the basic form of
newspaper writing. It is also common in many other kinds of publication, including Web pages.
The two best ways to develop this skill are:
1) Read a lot of newspaper stories.
2) Write a lot of newspaper stories.
What is this story about?
- A basic news story begins with the climax and records all additional information in order of declining importance.
- This is known as an Inverted Pyramid news story.
- Inverted Pyramid stories provide a format to convey information in a quick and efficient way.
- They also serve as an aid to readers who wanted to use the newspaper as an index of the day's news.
- Because it is so common, it is the form that must first be mastered by any student with a serious interest in journalism.