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Inverted Pyramid Writing Style

Updated on March 15, 2015

Oh, So That's What Its Called

It is often traced to the advent of the
telegraph and its virtual 'instant' messaging.

Previous to the wireless transmission
of data, there was no reason to scrimp
on words.

Even if one were reporting on a battle
of a war, it took weeks for the information to reach the newspaper, so writing a virtual novel, with all the background, personal reflections and lofty language was standard.
People really read newspapers, because there was a geat deal to read.

With th ability to transmit data immediately, the less words the better and the most important point came first. Hence instead of giving a great deal of information leading up to the event, the event came first then was decorated by details.

Hence the term, Inverted Pyramid.

The Impact

The long drawn out story, with the details, and the last paragraph pulling the threads together was slowly abandoned for the Inverted Pyramid style.

One can see, when reading older works how long they take to get to the point.
This is because in olden days when people sat down with a book they expected to be sitting for a few hours.

There was no phone, no television, no radio, and of course, no Internet. The person who was reading expected every detail, and would slowly wind his or her way through the information relishing the clever turn of phrase, committing passages to memory.

As the telegraph changed the time between event and report from weeks to minutes, people became accustomed to that style and authors began to follow suit, often beginning not with a long detailed full description of a place and the people in it, but starting in the middle of a conversation and adding details as needed.

Hence a book, such as The Key to Rebecca begins with the "The third camel died at noon." Not with a description of where the protagonist was, why he was there, who he was and what he was doing.

The Internet

As abbreviated as the Inverted Pyramid the style is, advent of online writing has given birth to tiny short stories, often called flash fiction, where everything is said within a page or less.

Many bemoan the death of language.

In olden times there were so many different ways of saying something, so many adverbs and adjectives and turns of phrases which have, today, been replaced with the insertion of an obscene word or two, as well as the various abbreviations, and acronyms so that how one makes the point is unimportant just as long as the response is instant.


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    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 5 years ago

      Although the change in style; i.e. Dickens to King is obvious, and the Newspaper articles written in 1810 in stark contrast to 1910 and 2010, not enough analysis goes into this 'evolution.' The other aspect is that those who are not original English speakers find it more difficult to read a modern short story than one written in the 1800s.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      In Journalism school my prof explained it as writing a news story as if the dog was going to grab the paper and bury it in the backyard as soon as the reader sat down to read the first paragragh ( the lede ) - so be sure and get the 4 Ws and the H in there. Couldn't ignore a story about the Inverted Pyramid!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very interesting. I never really thought about this being a specific approach to writing or when or why it was developed. I will be SHARING this with others.