One to remember

Features ‘cement main points into readers’ memories’

The feature-style story structure — aka the “stack of blocks” — is more memorable than the traditional news structure.

One to remember

Tie a string around my finger Help readers remember your message with the feature-style story structure. Image by Flood G.

“While the inverted pyramid is the worst form for readers, the ‘stack of blocks’ is the best in terms of reader comprehension,” writes Don Fry, an independent writing coach who represents The Poynter Institute.

“The stack has three parts: beginning, middle, and end. The middle contains the information grouped by subject matter into parts arranged in logical order. The beginning predicts the middle in form and content, and the ending cements the main points into the readers’ memories.”

Emmy award-winning journalist Tim Knight goes a step further in a 2015 rant, “Screw the Inverted Pyramid.” The inverted pyramid, he writes, is “cleverly designed to prevent the viewer from retaining information.”

Want them to remember? Think features, not pyramids.

  • Go Beyond the Pyramid

    Master a story structure that’s been proven in the lab to reach more readers

    Writers say, “We use the inverted pyramid because readers stop reading after the first paragraph.” But in new research, readers say, “We stop reading after the first paragraph because you use the inverted pyramid.”

    Go Beyond the Pyramid in Denver

    Indeed, our old friend the inverted pyramid hasn’t fared well in recent studies. Studies by the Poynter Institute, Reuters Institute and the American Society of News Editors show that the traditional news structure reduces readership, understanding, sharing, engagement and more.

    Grab readers’ attention, pull them through the piece and leave a lasting impression.

    The pyramid doesn’t work well, these researchers say, with a little subset of your audience we call “humans.”

    At Catch Your Readers — our two-day hands-on persuasive-writing master class on May 1-2 in Denver — you’ll master a structure that’s been proven in the lab to grab readers’ attention, pull them through the piece and leave a lasting impression. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Grab reader attention with a lead that’s concrete, creative and provocative — and avoid making readers’ eyes glaze over by using one of the seven deadly leads.
    • Stop bewildering your readers by leaving out an essential paragraph. (Many communicators forget this entirely.)
    • Avoid the “muddle in the middle” by choosing one of five structural techniques from a rubric created by the founder of TED Talks.
    • Draw to a satisfying conclusion in the penultimate paragraph.
    • End with a bang, not a whimper by using our three-step test.

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