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HomeGuidelines > 4. Build chunky paragraphs. > 4d. Put key conclusions, ideas, news, at the start of the article.      

 

Diagram

Background

Examples

Audience Fit

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4d. Put key conclusions, ideas, news, at the start of the article.

  • Start with the summary.  At first, this seems backward. Reach your conclusion, and then put it at the beginning.
  • Let visitors know what is in the article for them--right away.
  • Write the first sentence last.  You don't know what you think until you write the whole article.  Then, when you know what you are saying, sum that up in a first sentence.
  • Let people get the point without the argument and evidence.  If they want details, they will read on.  For many, the summary of the news is enough..

  Diagram

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Background

Web writing that presents news, summaries, and conclusions up front is useful and saves time. … "I was able to find the main point quickly, from the first line. I like that." While reading a different news story, someone else said, "It got my attention right away. This is a good site. Boom. It gets to the point."
Morkes & Nielsen (1997)

Write like a lead sentence in a hard news story…. Writing the punch line first, starting with the conclusion, rather than building up to it with careful reasoning, may be hard for some writers used to presenting detailed arguments orally. … It helps to write the beginning last.

Make sure that the information and links that all readers of a page need are visible without scrolling when a page is first viewed. —Bricklin (1998)

You have to let readers know right away what’s in it for them.—Amy Gahran, quoted in Silva (1998).

Anticipate your conclusion. Try to accommodate it in your introduction and allow people to skip the parts that led you to your conclusion. —Abeleto (1999)

Disclose the most important product information first. … Begin each product description with information that distinguishes that product from others and enables customers to recognize quickly which products do and don’t meet their needs. —IBM (1999)

Each hypertext page should be written according to the "inverted pyramid" principle that is commonly taught in journalism schools. Start with a short conclusion so that users can get the gist of the page even if they don’t read all of it; then, gradually, add detail. —Nielsen (1999f)

It was more than three times as common for users to limit their reading to a brief, as opposed to reading a full article. … Thus Web content needs to support both aspects of information access: foraging and consumption. —Nielsen (2000b)

Important information near the tops of paragraphs and pages. —Spyridakis (2000)

A Web site has only two to three seconds in which to grab and retain the user’s attention. Therefore, the first page—and the first items that appear on that page—must make a positive first impression. —America Online(2001)

See bibliography: Abeleto (1999), America Online (2001), Bricklin (1998), Deese and Kaufman (1957), Frase (1969), Freebody and Anderson (1986), IBM (1999), Isakson and Spyridakis (1999), Levine (1997), Morkes & Nielsen (1997), Nielsen (1997b, 1999f, 2000b), Silvia (1998), Spyridakis (2000)

Examples

Original Article:

In a recent study, we challenged our participants to set up a candle so it would light up the whole desk area, a task that demanded people find a way of attaching a candle to a screen behind the desk. We gave 15 participants some candles, tacks, matches, and boxes, without anything inside; we gave another 15 participants the same materials, but put the candles in one box, the tacks in another, and the matches in another. The first group, having never seen anything inside the boxes, felt free to put a candle inside a box, attaching the box to the screen by hot wax. The group who saw the boxes as containers for the supplies never realized they could use a box as a platform. They were stuck with the limiting idea that the boxes could act only as containers.

Thus, a person may get fixated, adopting the point of view so vividly presented by a demonstration or display, and never letting go. Our study proves that although a diagram, display, or demonstration may help someone understand a solution or function, that very success can limit the person’s imagination when dealing with another problem.

195 words.

Revised Article

Our recent study proves that although a diagram or demonstration may help someone understand a solution or function, that very success can limit the person’s imagination when dealing with another problem. The person may get fixated, adopting the point of view so vividly presented, and never letting go.

We challenged our participants to set up a candle so it would light up the whole desk area, a task that demanded people find a way of attaching a candle to a screen behind the desk. We gave 15 participants some candles, tacks, matches, and boxes, without anything inside; we gave another 15 participants the same materials, but put the candles in one box, the tacks in another, and the matches in another. The first group, having never seen anything inside the boxes, felt free to put a candle inside a box, attaching the box to the screen by hot wax. The group who saw the boxes as containers for the supplies never realized they could use a box as a platform. They were stuck with the limiting idea that the boxes could act only as containers.

185 words.

Other ways to make chunky paragraphs:

4a.  Design each paragraph around one idea.

4b. Put the idea of the paragraph first.

4c. If you must include context, put that first.

Resources on chunkiness

Taking a Position on chunkiness

Poster

 

 

Audience Fit
 
If visitors want... How well does this guideline apply?
To have fun Not necessary, but acceptable.  Making your point right away ensures that your guests will be able to follow your article.  But when entertaining, you're entitled to draw out the introduction quite a while.  Put the news at the end of your intro.
To learn General ideas need a brief intro, but not a lot.  Highlight them right away, and then expand on them.
To act Say what the goal or purpose is, right off, in the title and any introduction.
To be aware Not so easy, and not so necessary.  You can build up to your point if people have a general idea where you are going. Just don't take more than a paragraph or so to get there.
To get close to people Always best, if you want to be understood.  ON the other hand, if you prefer to start off by benting, go ahead and make your point by repeating yourself a dozen times.  (No one will be listening).

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