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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Inverted Pyramid Writing Style | First, tell your readers what you're writing about

Admittedly, I'm biased. But it's a bias I'm proud to announce, promote and follow. It's a bias for a style of writing that can benefit nearly all writing for nearly all readers and organizations.

And that's my bias for the inverted pyramid writing style. 

I first learned about it nearly 50 years ago in my high-school journalism class. I studied it again as a journalism (and political science) major in college. I practiced it as a newspaper reporter and editor for weekly and daily newspapers--and as an editor and public information officer for nonprofit and government agencies. And I taught it as a community college instructor. 

As described in this Blogging 101 article by Brad Zomick:
The Inverted Pyramid style, also known as ‘front-loading,‘ involved including all of the most important details which you hope to introduce over the course of the article in the first paragraph. 
Zomick says the technique is especially important when writing for the Web, "where audiences have low attention spans and readers more often scan, rather than read, entire articles." I agree!

But it's equally as useful, for those reasons and others, in writing business documents, academic papers, brochures, PowerPoint presentations, and other materials. The inverted pyramid technique is also effective in following the principles of plain language to meet the needs of your readers. 

Whatever your publication or whomever your audience, the technique is useful for this reason:
[S]o readers quickly decide whether or not to read the article and if they do decide to pass on it, they get all the key details. 
Zomick goes on to describe the technique in more detail and provides a video and links for more information. And he concludes:
Write Your Conclusion First
It’s that simple! The inverted pyramid style of writing contains all the key details of the article up front. It engages your impatient web readers quickly and reels them into the rest of your article or website for that matter. It also places all the relevant keywords in the top portion of the article so your webpage ranks better in search. Morale of the story: Don’t write for web readers without using the inverted pyramid writing style.
Zomick's article is featured today, May 21, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Plain Regulations Act of 2013 | We must be able to understand the rules affecting us!

I'd like to think most U.S. citizens (as well as citizens of other countries) would agree that government regulations should be written so people affected by them can understand them easily. How else can we respond effectively and legally to the regulations (or dispute them, for that matter)--without having to get a highly paid attorney involved?

If you agree, please check out this information provided by the Center for Plain Language. It describes proposed federal legislation in the United States.

Before listing actions you can take to support the legislation, the site provides this information:
Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa introduced the Plain Regulations Act (HR 1557) on April 15, 2013. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S 807, on April 23. These bills would require that all new and substantially revised federal regulations be written in plain language. They will make it easier to understand regulations, which in turn will
  • Increase the effectiveness of Federal regulatory programs
  • Decrease the regulatory burden on the public
Help us inform Congress about the benefits that plain language regulations would bring to citizens and the government alike.
For more information:

The article on this proposed legislation is featured today, May 21, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

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