April 28, 2017

Read all about it

Use a structure that’s been proven in the lab to increase reading

What if I told you there was a free tool available that would help you convince readers to read your messages more often, read them more completely and spend more time reading them? Would you use it?

Read all about it

Couldn’t put it down The feature-style story structure increases readership. Image by Fabián Pedrero Gallego

And what if I told you there was another tool out there that reduced readership and made people stop reading sooner? Would you stop using it? How quickly would you get rid of it?

My friend, these tools exist. The first — the one that encourages reading — is the feature-style story structure. The second one, the one that reduces reading, is the inverted pyramid.

And if you don’t know, now you know.

Feature structure increases reading.

Feature-style stories are easier to read than the traditional inverted-pyramid news structure, according to “Impact,” a 2001 study led by the Readership Institute at Northwestern University and sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America and the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Making messages more “easy to read” is one of the best ways to increase readership, the study found. That is, according to the study, the higher the score on “easy to read,” the more likely people are to:

  • Read the paper more often
  • Read it more completely
  • Spend more time reading it

“Easy to read” includes “is relaxing to read” and “makes it easy to find what I’m looking for.”

Inverted pyramids reduce reading.

Inverted pyramids, on the other hand, scored lowest in readership of four structures studied.

That’s according to “Ways With Words,” a 1993 project of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, The Poynter Institute, the St. Petersburg Times and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The inverted pyramid also tanked in getting the reader across the jump, which means it made people stop reading sooner.

Why? The pyramid starts out boring and “gets more boring as the reader reads down,” “Ways With Words” researchers said. Who needs to stick around for that?

AP uses features to ‘draw in the reader.’

One solution: Write more feature-style stories.

You won’t be alone. The Associated Press is now including a feature lead in addition to a news lead with every story it sends across the wire, according to The New York Times.

Why? The feature leads are more likely to “draw in the reader through imagery, narrative devices, perspective or other creative means,” according to the nation’s dominant news service.

Why not join the AP? After all, who would keep using a tool that doesn’t work when there’s a free tool out there that does?

  • Go Beyond the Inverted Pyramid

    Our old friend the inverted pyramid hasn’t fared well in recent research.

    According to new studies by such think tanks as The Readership Institute and The Poynter Institute, inverted pyramids: 1) Reduce readership and understanding; 2) Fail to make readers care about the information; and 3) Don’t draw readers across the jump. In short, researchers say, inverted pyramids “do not work well with readers.”

    Catch Your Readers - Ann Wylie's persuasive-writing workshop in Kansas City on Nov. 16-17, 2017 imageAt Catch Your Readers — a two-day Master Class on Nov. 16-17 in Kansas City — you’ll learn a structure that can increase readership, understanding and satisfaction with your message. Specifically, you’ll learn:

    • How to organize your message to grab readers’ attention, keep it for the long haul and leave a lasting impression.
    • Three elements of a great lead — and five leads to avoid.
    • How to stop bewildering your readers by leaving out an essential paragraph. (Many communicators forget it).
    • Five ways to avoid the “muddle in the middle”.
    • A three-step test for ending with a bang.

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Register for Catch Your Readers - Ann Wylie's persuasive-writing workshop in Kansas City on Nov. 16-17, 2017


    Browse all upcoming Master Classes.

    Would you like to hold an in-house Catch Your Readers workshop? Contact Ann directly.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!


%d bloggers like this: