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Writers' Center

Eastern Washington University

Journalistic Writing

Journalistic Writing

Many organizations use the Associated Press Style (AP Style) in their communication within their company and to the public. AP Style is important to know and understand for work in many different sectors, not just in newspaper and media organizations.

Journalism writing is simply writing well and adhering to AP Style. The real trick is to learn how to write concisely. Most readers don’t finish reading an entire article from beginning to end, so journalists must adjust to quickly conveying important information. There are two ways journalists combat this: concise sentences and the inverted pyramid.

The inverted pyramid is a traditional and often the most-used organizing structure for journalistic writing. The inverted pyramid places the more newsworthy information — the information people really need to know — at the very beginning of the article. The middle of the pyramid, and the middle of the article, is filled with other important information necessary to telling the story. The very bottom of the story is the least important information of the story.

When journalism content was strictly print based, journalists used the inverted pyramid for writing. Page designers would hand place the layout of each newspaper page. If the story was too long to fit in the allotted space of the page design, they would simply cut off the bottom of the article. By placing the least important information at the bottom of the story, journalists ensured the least important information was the part that was cut while the more important remained.

The Inverted Pyramid

The beginning one to two sentences are referred to as the “lead” of the article. In the lead, most of the 5 W’s are answered: who, what, when, where and why. Because the lead needs to be kept short (one to two short sentences), some of that information may be forced to be included further down in the article.

The middle of the article, and the middle piece of the inverted pyramid, is referred to as the body. The body of the article is the bulk of information that tells the rest of the story that wouldn’t fit in the lead. It contains information pertinent to the story.

The very end of an article is referred to as the tail, which is the bottom segment of the inverted pyramid. The tail is the least important information that pertains to the article. For example, the tail may contain information for an upcoming event related to the article or contact information for the reader to ask more questions.

Inverted pyramid 2

By Inverted_pyramid.jpg: The Air Force Departmental Publishing Office (AFDPO)derivative work: Makeemlighter (Inverted_pyramid.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons