Inverted pyramid

From Academic Kids

The inverted pyramid is a graphical metaphor that is most often used to illustrate how information should be arranged or presented within a text, in particular within a news story. Despite the name, almost always the figure is drawn simply as an equilateral triangle with an apex pointing downward, rather than as a three-dimensional pyramid in perspective.

The triangle's broad base at the top of the figure represents the most substantial, interesting, and important information the writer means to convey. The triangle's orientation is meant to illustrate that this kind of material should head the article. The tapered lower portion illustrates that other material should follow in order of diminishing importance.

This format will allow the less important information to be more easily cut out of the article to fit a fixed size (number of words, printed size, etc.,).

The hourglass is another figurative paradigm for a different type of text construction.


Historians argue over when the form was created. However, they agree that the invention of the telegraph sparked its development. Important information was at the top so that if the transmission was interrupted, the most important information would survive.

Consider this early example of the form from the New York Herald on April 15, 1865:

This evening at about 9:30 p.m. at Ford's Theatre, the President, while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harris and Major Rathburn, was shot by an assassin, who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President.

The assassin then leaped upon the stage, brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape in the rear of the theatre.

The pistol ball entered the back of the President's head and penetrated nearly through the head. The wound is mortal.

The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted, and is now dying.

About the same hour an assassin, whether the same or not, entered Mr. Seward’s apartment and under pretense of having a prescription was shown to the Secretary’s sick chamber. The assassin immediately rushed to the bed and inflicted two or three stabs on the chest and two on the face. It is hoped the wounds may not be mortal. My apprehension is that they will prove fatal.

The nurse alarmed Mr. Frederick Seward, who was in an adjoining room, and he hastened to the door of his father’s room, when he met the assassin, who inflicted upon him one or more dangerous wounds. The recovery of Frederick Seward is doubtful.

It is not probable that the President will live through the night.

As you can see, 'when', 'where', 'what' and 'how' are addressed in the first paragraph. As the article continues, the less important details are presented. This is somewhat similar in principle to the spiral approach sometimes used in teaching, where the important, basic facts are covered first and reemphasized often to help get them encoded into long-term memory.

External links

eo:Piramida stilo


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