The Inverted Pyramid in Journalism

The inverted pyramid is a handy tool used by journalists and business writers to structure their work. Understanding the inverted pyramid and how it’s used will help you to edit this form of writing.

In this post, we explain the basics of the inverted pyramid so that you can use it to help assess your client’s work.

What Is the Inverted Pyramid?

The inverted pyramid is a structure commonly used in journalism and business writing to create articles and reports (or copies) that are easy to read and follow.

It consists of three main components:

  • The lead
  • The body
  • The tail

The idea is that the most important information is given in the opening of the article (the lead), followed by the finer details in the main section (the body), before tapering to less important background information toward the end (the tail).

As an editor, you can use the inverted pyramid to check that your client’s work is structured appropriately. Let’s take a closer look at the elements of the inverted pyramid from an editing perspective.

1. The Lead

The lead (or lede) is the opening line or paragraph of a piece of journalism. It should answer the who, what, why, where, when, and how of the subject matter.

This way, the reader is immediately provided with everything they need to understand the main point of a news story or subject. This makes it easy for skim readers to pick up on the key details while also encouraging them to read further for additional information.

When editing a journalistic article or web copy, you should check that your client has included all the key details of the story here.

2. The Body

This is the main section of the article. It provides supporting details about the story or subject.

The body may also contain:

  • The author’s argument
  • Supporting evidence
  • Quotes and commentary

In this section, you’ll want to make sure your client has expanded on the information given in the lead without introducing new essential information or going into so much detail that the main point of the article or story is lost.

3. The Tail

The tail is the final paragraph of an article. Any background information that is helpful (but not essential) to understanding the story should be included here.

Depending on the purpose of your client’s work, the tail may also include information about the author, where to go for further reading on the subject, or a call to action.

Again, you should check that your client hasn’t provided any new essential information or surprise twists to the story here.

One way to make sure your client has used the inverted pyramid correctly is to remove the tail. If you find that the rest of the article no longer makes sense or that it presents an incomplete story, you might advise your client to move pertinent details up into the body or even into the lead.

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