Inverted pyramid checklist

When you write an inverted pyramid news story, use the following checklist to make sure that you have done it correctly.


Information should be presented in descending order of importance.

Leads

  • one sentence
  • 30-35 words maximum
  • lead tells the most important information in the story and gives specific facts

Second paragraph

  • expand or develop some idea introduced in the lead
  • should not drop the story into a chronological narrative

Attribution

  • All major information should be attributed unless it is commonly known or unless the information itself strongly implies the source.
  • Don’t dump a string of direct quotations on the reader.
  • Direct quotations should be no more than two sentences long.
  • Direct quotations and their attribution should be punctuated properly. Here’s an example:
    “John did not go with her,” he said.
  • Elements of a direct quotation should be in the proper sequence, as in the example above: direct quote, speaker, verb.

AP style
Always. Check numbers, dates, locations, titles, etc.

Check the following

  • pronoun-antecedent agreement
  • it, its, it’s
  • “it is . . .”, “there is . . .”, “there are . . .” structures; avoid these. They are passive and vague.
  • Use the past tense, not the present.
  • Comma splice or run-on sentence, such as
    He picked up the ball, he ran down the field.
    Sally does not know where he is he is not here.
    These are grammatically incorrect.
  • Plurals — don’t make them by using an “apostrophe s”.

Short paragraphs — any paragraph more than three sentences is definitely too long; any paragraph that is three sentences is probably too long.

Wordiness — have you checked for too much verbiage, redundancies, unnecessary repetitions, etc.

Name, title — When you put the title before a name, do not separate them with commas, such as
(WRONG): Game warden, Brad Fisher, arrested the trespassers.
When the name comes before the title, the title should be set off by commas.
Brad Fisher, the game warden, arrested the trespassers.

Transitions — use them to tie your paragraphs together. Don’t jump from one subject to another in a new paragraph without giving the reader some warning.

Don’t copy the wording of the information sheet.

Names — check them once more to make sure they are spelled correctly.


The errors above are some of the most common that beginning writing students make in writing inverted pyramid news stories. Get into the habit of checking them on the story assignments that you get in your lab.

Get a FREE copy of Kill the Quarterback

3d ktq small

Get a free digital copy of Jim Stovall's mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback. You will also get Jim's newsletter and advanced notice of publications, free downloads and a variety of information about what he is working on. Jim likes to stay in touch, so sign up today.

Powered by ConvertKit

About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Share