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Pyramid Style

The Pyramid style puts your most important fact or conclusion in the FIRST sentence. The most spectacular thought in your letter should be spelled out in the very first sentence if at all possible. One way of deciding what the first sentence should be is to think of a short headline describing your main conclusion. Suppose you want to make the point that marijuana is one of the safest drugs known to man; your headline might read "Pot Safer than Drinking Water." Writing in a logical fashion, you'd bring in all kinds of supporting data and THEN say that pot is safer than drinking water. But that's not the way the pyramid style works. Get right to it and grab the reader's interest. "Scientific studies prove that marijuana is safer than ordinary drinking water......"

Layout the most important thoughts in the first paragraph and then relate your proofs in order of importance. Bring out your study about drinking water deaths and the CDC report on pot fatalities AFTER stating the conclusions drawn from them. At the end reiterate your conclusions--- "a drug safer than aspirin and drinking water should be legal....."

Almost all news stories are done in the pyramid style. If you want further instruction, get a newspaper and go through the NEWS. Invariably, the header over the item is repeated in the first sentence. From there the ideas go down the scale in importance.

The reason reporters use the pyramid style is because the story can be cut at almost any point after the first couple of paragraphs and still make sense. This is essential when you don't know beforehand how much space you'll have for the item. Try cutting a few news items and you'll see how easy it is to fit a story in when you don't know ahead of time how much space there will be for it. The best examples of the pyramid style can be cut at ANY point after the first paragraph and still make sense.

Please note that the pyramid does not apply to columns, OpEd pieces and articles for magazines. In these cases a definite word count is usually imposed to fit the item in and a number of styles are used. As long as you finish within the word limit, it's OK. Of course, the idea of getting the reader's interest right way always applies.

Good For Busy People

The pyramid style should always be considered when contacting any busy person. If you don't get their attention in the first paragraph, the whole thing is likely to disappear under the "delete" key. You've got to grab them quick. Busy people just won't waste time trying to figure your message. State your conclusion, request or demand in a HEADLINE and get right to it. Bring your proof in later. If you get their attention, they'll read the whole thing. If not, at least you planted your most important thought in the person's mind.

Strunk says - "Less is More"

Another suggestion is to study "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk & E B White. Strunk teaches the importance of brevity. Strunk's terse lessons on omitting needless words and using the active voice are the most important lessons to learn if you want to improve most writings. Strunk understood the fundamental proposition that less is more when it comes to effective writing. The fewer words you use the better. Wordiness weakens writing. Simplicity has the power to change minds and change the world.

Short and sweet is essential for Letters to the Editor because your letter will only be one of hundreds on every subject under the sun competing for very limited space. You should know up front that a long letter has very little chance of being published. The only really long letters you see come from government officials, heads of large corporations, celebrities, leaders of organizations, the target of an article and the like. 200-300 words is a good length for publication, but don't waste words. If you can say what you want in 100 words, do it.


Read your piece several times correcting typos and grammatical errors and eliminating unnecessary words as you go, rearrange the thoughts, add and delete and generally play around with the ideas until your message is tight.

Develop your Writing Style

Most experts agree the Pyramid style of writing is the most effective for printed media, use these suggestions to create powerful, publishable Letters to the Editor and Press Releases.