How can you gain and hold a reader’s attention?
How can you write a logically structured story that is easy to understand and remember?
I find these tasks to be challenging. So I recently read “The Pyramid Principle” by Barbara Minto, which is considered to a brilliant book on persuasive writing. I found the book to be an excellent silo of valuable tips and recommendations for well-structured writing. The principles discussed in the book can be effective in non-narrative writing which I hope to practice.
Some of my key take-aways from the book which I would like to share are outlined below.
Start your writing with a statement that is relevant to the user.
By determining the question you want your document to answer, present the key statement or take-away right at the beginning. This would give a clear idea to the reader about the direction you are heading towards.
According to Minto, the introduction should contain 3 elements of a story
- Situation – where we are now?
- Complication – how has the situation changed?
- Solution – what we need to do?
The introduction can then be followed by supporting arguments which can be grouped logically.
Organize your ideas in groups that is easier to comprehend.
When lots of ideas are presented to the mind, it automatically starts categorizing them into logical categories. If you as a a writer present your ideas in a pre-categorized logical format, the reader may find it easy to judge the relationship between the ideas.
According to the Pyramid Principle, “Ideas at any level in the pyramid must always be summaries of the ideas grouped below them”. This makes it easy for the reader to go from a single idea to the next level of ideas without detailed information straightaway.
Arrange your grouped ideas in a logical manner.
While grouping ideas, it is important to bear in mind to group data of the same kind together in a logical way. There are a few ways of ordering the groups:
- Time order – useful to explain sequence of events with cause-effect relationships.
- Structural order – if you can divide a single thought into its parts which are mutually exclusive of each other and collectively exhaustive in terms of the single thought, this order can be useful.
- Ranking order – useful to order a set of things that are classified as being alike because of a common characteristic.
People find it hard to pay attention to unstructured documents. Writing a well-structured document in a way people can stay focused is crucial for making your messaging effective or memorable. I believe that story telling is an important craft for a software tester. David Greenlees has blogged about this in TechWell. If you are interested to sharpen your skill in persuasive writing, Barbara’s book is a highly recommend read.