The Inverted Pyramid

The time for understanding and using the inverted pyramid is now. The average human attention span is eight seconds, according to a Microsoft survey done last year. Goldfish have an attention span of nine seconds.

That’s right. People now have a shorter attention span than goldfish.

Communicators must get to the point quickly. State your point and then back it up. Providing a lot of background and finally coming to the point is useful in academic journals, but not for communicating with the average person. People, in general, have a small attention span and unlimited amounts of distractions.

I’m a prime example. While writing this blog I’ve been distracted by goldfish videos, the rain outside, and three emails.

Focus comes in limited supply so we must communicate quickly.

The inverted pyramid is here to help! The concept is simple. Put the most important information first and build details in below. This style of writing is the shining light at the end of the tunnel for all journalism students. Using the inverted pyramid takes patience, humility, and the ability to get to the point quickly.

Getting to the point can be tough, especially when there is a lot to explain. Starting with important statements is especially hard with complex topics like environmental regulation, water treatment, and engineering concepts.


What information should go first when explaining a hydrology report? What’s the most important point of properly managing biosolids?

Start looking for the point of your message by thinking about what people care about. Most people care about their family, home, community and finances. What part of your message affects those areas?

For instance, a hydrology report may impact a community’s ability to access reliable drinking water sources. That can affect family and business activities and may have financial repercussions. Managing biosolids is an important part of public health and in many areas, agriculture.  Target your audience and put what they care about first.

If you are still having a hard time coming to the point quickly, think of how you would explain the topic to your family at the dinner table. Why should they care? What points would mean the most to them?

Use the inverted pyramid to write with a purpose and find that purpose quickly. If you don’t your message will be lost in the fishbowl.