The easiest way to hook your reader is to use a yearbook writing technique that’s used by the pros: Put the most important stuff first.
You and your yearbook team have limited time to capture a reader’s attention—and, perhaps more importantly, limited space to tell your story—so you should be focused on hitting them with the big stuff right out of the gate.
In journalism, this writing technique is known as the inverted pyramid. In military and government briefs, it’s known as BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front).
Because the yearbook is journalistic in nature, we’ll be sticking with the term “inverted pyramid” throughout this post. But know this: Whatever you call it, the technique is an effective means of communication. And it’s one your team can use when looking to improve its yearbook writing.
Inside this post, we’ll walk you through what the inverted pyramid looks like and how you can break it down into manageable chunks.
What The Inverted Pyramid Looks Like
When it comes right down to it, the organization of your yearbook writing should look like this:
That’s an inverted pyramid.
It’s a three-tiered writing diagram that forces the most important stuff to the very top and the remainder of the story’s details into the two remaining tiers.
How to Use The Inverted Pyramid in Your Yearbook Writing
This approach to yearbook writing might sound obvious (or maybe even boring), but plenty of student journalists will try to tell a story in chronological order. Help them avoid that by showing them this diagram.
Put The Most Important Stuff First
Your opening lines, or the lead, as it’s often known, should immediately state what’s special about the article. What was different about the event this year as opposed to last year? What makes this story noteworthy?
The lead should cover most of the five Ws: Who, What, When, Where and Why. These elements provide the biggest, most important pieces of information, and should be introduced early in your article.
The more interesting the news, the more reader will want the details. You’re not writing a mystery novel, so don’t try to tease your audience with page-turning suspense. You’ve got a limited time to capture their attention, so hit them with the big stuff right out of the gate.
Put The Next-Most Important Stuff Second
Now that the reader is invested in the story, this is a great space to share more about the event or achievement, and the students that were involved.
After reading the headline and the lead, readers will get the basics of what happened. The middle section is your opportunity to tell more of a story. You can also expand a bit more on the how.
You can do this in a few ways, but some of the most proven tactics include:
- Relying on first-hand accounts. Relying on interviews with students and participants can help you paint a picture of what an event felt like to those who experienced it. Quotes, in particular, can help evoke emotion, which is a strong way to keep readers engaged.
- Including background details. If you can continue to build on your 5 Ws, all the better. Background details, like the time left on the clock when the basketball team scored the championship-winning basket or the number of hours it took the stagehands to build the set for the school play, helps propel a story along and give the reader a deeper understanding of what happened and why you’re writing about it.
- Using pull-quotes. Really great quotes can do more than just evoke emotion. They can also be used to break up text and add some design elements to your page or spread. Think of a pull-quote as another entry point for the reader.
Just as in the overall structure of the inverted pyramid, the middle section should begin with the most important details, and cascade down to the less essential stuff. There aren’t clear breaks between beginning, middle, and end sections, so you don’t have to worry about where one section ends and the next begins.
Put The Least-Most Important Stuff Last
If you’ve really captured your reader’s attention, they’re going to be hungry for every little bit of information they can get. (You know the binge TV watcher who seeks out fan forums online? Or the Belieber who knows lyrics to the songs that didn’t make Justin Bieber’s album? That’s the type of reader who stays until the end.)
The more you can attract an audience with the big hits, the more you can interest them in the details.
Details that would otherwise be left out belong at the end. They might be interesting, but if you need to cut them for space, it’s no big deal. Of course, you’ll want to leave the readers satisfied, so if you can finish with any kind of pithy or clever line, that will make them more likely to read your next article from start to finish. A retrospective or forward-looking quote from a student is also a nice way to draw each piece to a close.
Chances are your pages won’t be filled with text, but you’ll want to share what you’ve got in a way that makes sense. If you follow this simple formula, you’ll not only be able to highlight the year’s most memorable moments, you’ll also develop a clear and valuable method of yearbook writing from top to bottom—and that’s the point.