The inverted pyramid is a metaphor used to illustrate how information should be arranged

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The inverted pyramid is a metaphor used to illustrate how information should be arranged or presented within a text, in particular within a news story. The "pyramid" can also be drawn as a triangle.

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, while the tapered lower portion illustrates that other material should follow in order of diminishing importance.

The format is valued because readers can leave the story at any point and understand it, even if they don't have all the details. It also allows less important information to be more easily removed by editors so the article can fit a fixed size.

Other news writing styles are also used, including the "anecdotal lead," which begins the story with an eye-catching tale rather than the central facts.

The "pyramid" can also be drawn as a triangle. 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, while the tapered lower portion illustrates that other material should follow in order of diminishing importance.

The format is valued because readers can leave the story at any point and understand it, even if they don't have all the details. It also allows less important information to be more easily removed by editors so the article can fit a fixed size.

Other news writing styles are also used, including the "anecdotal lead," which begins the story with an eye-catching tale rather than the central facts.

This is an article structure that has existed since about the Civil War. With the advent of the telegraph as a means of distributing news stories (the "wire story"), wire editors looked for a story structure that would be universally acceptable to editors of different newspapers with differing news styles and differing design and editing formulas.

They looked for a story structure that editors would need and readers would accept. The inverted pyramid met everyone's expectations.

The inverted- pyramid style is a news article or sports article that is written like art upside down triangle, with the base at the top and the point at the bottom. The top contains (usually) a summary lead, with the key elements of who, what, where and when in the top three paragraphs or so.

Other elements, why and how, may be left until later in the story. This summary form using who, what, where, and when is universally appropriate for news articles, at the national, regional, and local level.

The package, labeled "Parks for the Next Century," will cost $250 billion and will involve upgrades for user services in Yellowstone, Yosemite, and many of the other major parks in the National Park system.

The $250 billion package will be paid for in a special proposal which will be presented to Congress soon. It is expected that user fees for all national parks will increase, although administration officials did not estimate the increase for individual park users.

Here is the who (President Clinton); the what (announced the National Park package); the where (the Washington dateline) and the when (Wednesday).

On national wire stories, the where is usually a dateline before the first sentence and then when (Wednesday) often "fits best" at the end of a sentence or paragraph. Generally, a summary of the most important key facts, financial costs, key facts, key details, and key quotations are used in the top three paragraphs.

If the news article in the inverted pyramid form is nine paragraphs long, a general rule would be this: The first one to three paragraphs would be a summary lead of the key elements of the story. The middle three paragraphs would be major facts, major details, and major quotations in the order of importance, most important at the top, least important details toward the bottom.

The bottom of the article, written in this inverted pyramid, should contain the least important material in the story. The inverted pyramid should be written in such a manner that if the article was 9 inches in column form, and there was only 7 inches of space for the article, the last 2 inches of copy could literally be cut off the story without crippling the meaning of the story.

The inverted pyramid is "top heavy" with key facts, details and quotations. This type of article structure is perfect for international, national, regional, and local news and is mandatory for front-page articles that involve fatalities, whether they are airplane crashes, automobile crashes, shootings, accidents, or weather stories, such as hurricanes and other storms.

In general, everything in an inverted pyramid story is immediate. In the newspaper business, yesterday's news is on today's front page. In the Clinton parks story, earlier, the Wednesday announcement of the parks package would (presumably) be on the front page of Thursday newspapers.

In general, everything in the inverted pyramid story is "yesterday": yesterday's announcement by the president, yesterday's air crash, yesterday's area wide tornado, or yesterday's local town elections, but the day is used to avoid confusion.

The focus of the inverted pyramid is immediate news. Details, facts, and information become less important as the writer works through the middle of the story. Minor details are used toward and at the bottom of the article. This becomes an instinctive form for daily newspaper news writers.

It is just as appropriate in sports writing, especially for sports news articles. The sports writer often answers who's involved, what's happening, where, and when at the top of the article, then works through the key facets or key topics of the story, to the minor details at the bottom.

Here is a similar example of an inverted pyramid sports story. This article, by Gary Long of The Miami Herald, was published in the Houston Chronicle on February 12, 1994 under a four-column headline and subhead:

The lead of this By Gary Long article runs four paragraphs, down through DAYTONA BEACH, Ha.-Neil Bonnett, a popular the paragraph about stockcar driver who had raced only twice since the time of his death an April 1990crash that caused severe head injuries and temporary amnesia, died Friday afternoon trying to keep alive a high-risk career that he wouldn't give up.

Bonnett, 47, from Bessemer, Ala., suffered massive head injuries when his Chevrolet slammed the fourth-turn wall nose-first. He was practicing for the 36th annual Day-tona 500 a week from Sunday.

Bonnett would have tried to qualify for his 16th Day-tona 500 this afternoon. Instead, he became the 25th fatality in all forms of racing at Daytona International Speed-way since its 1959 opening. He was pronounced dead at nearby Halifax Medical Center at 1:17 p.m., less than an hour after.

How the accident hap- Bonnett, who ran fifth in his first Daytona 500 in penned is describe- 1976,lost control of his Chevrolet as he exited the there, toward the mid- 31-degreebanking in Turn 4. The car skidded die of the article.

Down on the flat apron and then veered straight back into the outside wall brutally hard. Bonnett had to be cut from the wreckage, and NASCAR officials promptly ordered that a tarp be placed over the Chevrolet, a grim signal.

Initially, there were rumors that he might have hit an oil slick. Briefly into the practice, a red flag had been waved so that oil-dry powder could be spread between Turns 1 and 2. But NASCAR official Chip Williams said there was no sign of oil in the fourth turn and those other drivers' reported no problems there.

Williams said indications were that Bonnett lost control. Bonnett's car hit just a few feet from where ARCA rookie Andy Farr knocked a hole into the concrete in a crash in practice Thursday.

Track officials worked over-night replacing a section of the wall and catch fencing that had been torn out. Farr remained hospitalized in good condition.


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