How to sharpen your content: write like an Egyptian

When you write for business, you write for short attention spans.  You can’t expect a client to trudge through pages of preamble before they arrive, exhausted and mud-spattered at the thing you want to tell them. I’m going to share one technique with you that makes even the meatiest piece of content a breeze to read.

Can content be snappy and substantial?

If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of reading fast-food blog posts. Those posts that feels as if they were dreamt up, written and edited in fifteen minutes or less. Posts that skim across the surface of a topic, and teach you nothing you couldn’t have worked out yourself with a dose of common sense and a cup of tea. Your readers want content of substance.

Content of substance doesn’t have to be laboriously long. It is possible to be both profound and straight to the point. But you won’t always be able to achieve both those things in 300 words or less.

So we have two needs pulling in opposite directions:

  • hitting your readers with the good stuff straight away, and
  • giving long-form content for people who want the whole story.

Enter the Egyptians

This is where the inverted pyramid comes in.

The inverted pyramid is a pattern for structuring your content so the main point comes first.  The reader gets the crucial information straight away, right there in the first paragraph.  Then, if they’re interested, you lead them into the detail over the following paragraphs.

Here’s what it looks like:

inverted-pyramid

 

 

 

 

 

The inverted pyramid comes from print journalism, back when newspapers were laid out by hand.  The editors had a fixed space for an article to fit into, so the journalists arranged information in descending order of importance, starting with the key points – the story in a nutshell.  That meant that if space got tight, the editor could cut the bottom section, then the section above that, and so on.  The editor could even cut out the story down to just that first paragraph, and the kernel of the story would survive.

How the inverted pyramid will sharpen your writing

This technique is more than a hundred years old, but it’s the perfect way of writing for your business, and especially online. Have you ever read a web page, got a few paragraphs in, then flitted away to something else? Our minds are like the old-school newspaper editor, deciding: ‘do I have enough space for the rest of this article?’

As useful as the inverted pyramid is, this technique is not one that most people can just sit down and write to from beginning to end. What most writers – including myself – do is get the meat of their content sorted out first.  We decide what we want to say, and write a rough draft of the body of the content.  Then we come back and write that first paragraph that whittles it all down to one point.

When you write, hit your readers with the good stuff straight away, so you give them a reason to stay.

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