Figure 2-3.Inverted pyramid news story structure.
Before you can present the facts, you first must
understand them, appraise them correctly and organize
them in an orderly and easily understood manner. This
process of organization and selection begins when you
set out on an assignment. You rarely will be able to-get
your facts in the order in which they will appear in the
final story. The process of legible note-taking provides
the raw material for you to construct the story, and
certain proven guidelines serve as the blueprint for
building the final product.
In fiction, a short story or novel is normally
constructed in chronological order. This means the
author starts from the beginning, sets the time and place,
describes the scene, introduces his characters, then
slowly weaves the threads of his plots and subplots until
a climax is reached, usually near the end of the story.
The writer deliberately holds back the climax to build
suspense and to make sure the reader reads the entire
Most news stories, however, are constructed in just
the opposite fashion. The climax is presented first.
This method packs the most important facts together
with the barest necessary explanatory material into the
first paragraph (the summary lead), then moves into the
detailed portion of the story (the body) by covering the
facts in diminishing order of importance. This form of
newswriting is commonly known as the inverted
pyramid style because when it is diagramed, it appears
as an upside-down pyramid (fig. 2-3).
ADVANTAGES OF THE INVERTED
The inverted pyramid style offers several distinct
advantages in newswriting, which are discussed in the
Presents Pertinent Facts First
Most readers have neither the time nor the desire to
read every word of every story in a newspaper. By using
the summary lead, the JO focuses the readers attention
on the news, arouses the readers interest and allows the
reader to swiftly skim important facts. In other words,
spill the whole story in the first paragraph. The reader
can decide whether to continue reading the details or to
go on to something else. But even if the reader stops
there, the inverted pyramid form of writing has provided
the essential facts. The primary objective of a news story
then, is not to withhold information, but to present the
facts with rapid, simple directness.
Facilitates Page Layout
The inverted pyramid method of story construction
is a valuable tool to the makeup person who is
confronted with an eight-inch story and only six inches
of column space. If the story has been written in inverted
pyramid form, it becomes a simple matter of cutting
lines of type from the bottom of the story until it fits the
available space or jumping (continuing) the story on
anothe page all without damage to the important
facts that appear at the top.
Facilitates Headline Writing
Headlines for news stories should tell the main facts
in the most brief form. If a story is written in the proper
inverted pyramid style, the copyreader (who writes the
headline) can find these facts in the first paragraph. The
copyreader will not have to search the entire story for
The opening paragraph of a news story is referred
to as the lead (pronounced leed).