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The “INVERTED PYRAMID” principle is very simple: write what is most important the first, and what is the least important the last.
REMEMBER: IMPORTANT STUFF – write them right away! Don’t sit on them.
The traditional style of writing takes its time by first establishing the “base” of knowledge, similar to the way a regular pyramid would have its base at the bottom. All the other layers rest on that wide base.
Journalism has changed all that.
People don’t have the time to read “introductory” materials. When they read a news story they want to understand WHAT happened FIRST, right away. This requires spilling out the most important aspects of an event first and then gradually going into other details like who was involved, what were the circumstances, etc.
Technical writing has borrowed the inverted pyramid approach from journalism.
The fourth edition of Microsoft Manual of Style, for example, recommends “inverted pyramid” as a good way to write technical documents.
REMEMBER: Mention the most crucial aspects of a software, gadget, or “system” right away, preferably in the INTRODUCTION, OVERVIEW, or BEFORE YOU START a chapter.
These would be the kind of “system prerequisites” or warning items that the user needs to pay attention to in order to prevent and accident – or worse.
Let’s say you’re writing a user guide for an electronic consumer product. Then you have to make a list of “BEFORE YOU PLUG IT IN” items and print it on the very first page.
For example, “Voltage of Operation” should be delivered first to the reader since plugging a 110 volt gadget into a 220 volt socket will burn it right away.
Be safe, get to the point fast, and take good care!
(Free photo credit morguefile-dot-com)