Most of us have a tendency to warm to our theme as we write. We usually start off with a few introductory sentences (like this) in which we explain why it is that we are writing about this particular topic, and what you might gain from reading what we have written.
A typical workplace report has an introduction that lets you know who the report is for and what it will cover. It often has an executive summary so that the busy executive doesn’t have to read through the whole document. (I often wonder why I should bother writing the rest of the report. I could be writing any old rubbish and be fairly confident that only the most persistent readers will make it to the end).
This is not necessarily the best way to write. Next time you have to write a report or a presentation, I suggest you try using the pyramid writing style.
Pyramid writing involves putting your essential message first and is the opposite of traditional writing. Most people are busy and will decide in the first few sentences whether or not they can be bothered to keep reading what you have written. This paragraph would be first if I were using the pyramid writing style.
The best part is that you don’t need to leave any information out; you just put it in a different order:
- Essential message first
- Supporting information
- History (or background) if needed.
This will keep all your readers happy because they can read the beginning to get the message, or the whole thing to get all the details. It will also force you to know what your main point is before you start writing. This is of course how journalists write all the time. You might think it encourages laziness, but once you have engaged your readers with your key message, they are more likely to be interested in the supporting information.
Why not try this next time you are asked to write a report, an email or a presentation?