L³: Lindsay’s Lessons Learned

Communication Tip: Don’t Bury Your Lead 

Definition: bury the lead

verb: (idiomatic) (news writing style) To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential points or facts. [NOTE: THIS IS NOT GOOD]


If you want to communicate effectively you have to structure your writing to lead with the most important things first.


Why is this essential? 


We live in a time-starved world where people are dealing with numerous distractions ranging from emails to personal mind chatter. To ensure your point is clear and not misinterpreted, state your case up front, not buried between paragraphs for people to hopefully find (or, god forbid, at the very end of an email or press release).


Start with the most important information first in order to guide the reader and help them understand what they should take away from what you’ve written. Think of it as holding their hand and showing them the way of where you want them to go. Being upfront reduces the room for misinterpretation.


DISCLAIMER: In email correspondence, a single sentence to establish a connection “It was wonderful to see you yesterday at XYZ” or “I hope you had a great weekend” at the very beginning is fine but follow it with stating the purpose of your email.


How should I structure my writing to ensure I don’t bury the lead?


A simple tool that will help ensure your writing always delivers the most impact is what journalists call the “inverted pyramid,” where the most important information is mentioned first and then each successive paragraph, sentence or bullet point decreases in order of importance.


This is effective in a fast-paced world where people often scan content.


LINDSAY’S TIDBIT: I usually give the ‘inverted pyramid’ a little punch at the end by restating my main point to be 100% sure the reader understands what I’m saying – obviously done with a bit of finesse so the reader doesn’t feel like it is overkill.


Less Is Often More 

Another important point about effective writing is that ‘less is often more.’ Don’t let wordiness detract from powerfully communicating your point. While you may think every single detail is essential, it probably isn’t to your reader. A rule of thumb I use is “the power of three” – don’t have anymore than three key points in your argument/information.


So remember:

Start with the most important information first

Followed by three powerful points in order of importance

Finish with a succinct ending to recap and reaffirm


Side note for the females out there: as women, we tend to talk in ‘stories’ and then tie it into our point, males on the other hand tend to state their points upfront and then support it with rationale. “Not burying the lead” increases the odds of more people understanding you (plus, we know that men need as much help as they can get… just joking gentlemen… kind of).


For more information or to learn more effective communications tips please visit: www.JiveCommunications.ca

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