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I like that the article begins with a tl;dr summary of

> Ocean salt primarily comes from rocks on land

Not many articles do that, but it only made reading the rest of the article more appealing to me, not less.




It's called the Inverted Pyramid structure, and it's how articles are supposed to be written. I learned it in junior high [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_pyramid_(journalism)]. But yeah, it's not how many articles come today:

1. Clickbait headline that tells you nothing. (Unfortunately this article retains that flaw)

2. Introduction by the author of --- the author! He had been thinking about this topic for a long time. He had this conversation with his colleagues about it (reproduced here). Then his editor finally challenged him to have a go at it. So here it is!

3. Encyclopedic history of the topic (question still unanswered).

4. Compendium of assorted controversy and minority opinion (majority opinion still left to be stated).

5. The information.

6. Return to the author, his life, what he's doing afterwards, what he has eaten for breakfast, his favorite color, etc.

7. Request for comments, subscribe, like, share, etc.


>it's how articles are supposed to be written

It's how traditional straight news articles have historically been written in large part for practical reasons. Those reasons were particularly evident for wire service copy where the newspaper using the copy could pretty much cut off the article at any arbitrary point to fit it into whatever hole they had in their layout.

For feature articles and many magazine articles, there's no hard and fast journalism rule to use inverted pyramid and never has been.

You may prefer that everything be written with inverted pyramid and that is certainly your right--and there are often good reasons--but it's not the "right" way to do things.


> for practical reasons

You really think there is no benefit to the reader?

I agree that the Inverted Pyramid is the mainstay of news and would be unfit for a novel and even some long features like you find in New Yorker magazine.

But the problem isn't that there are too many articles written in the Inverse Pyramid that should have been written some other way. The problem is that too many articles that should have been written in the Inverted Pyramid aren't. If you have problems with making judgments and using the word "should," I'm talking about writing in the practical interests of the reader. If the reader comes to the article for information, then the article should get to the point as soon as possible. If the reader comes for entertainment (like a novel) then the writing can follow some other path.

To say that the reason for the Inverted Pyramid was mainly so that syndicates could cut the article at any point to fit the space they had is to ignore all the benefits to the reader. The reader is presented with a large newspaper of various articles, and he is trying to decide which ones to read and which to skip, because he doesn't have time to read a whole newspaper from start to finish every day. Some stories, he just wants the gist, which is why even the headlines are supposed to present the whole story, obviously in outline. A hurried reader can browse just the headlines and know the overall news of the day. A less-hurried reader can read the first paragraph of some of the more interesting stories. And so on.

Even though we don't have paper newspapers as much, we still have readers with short attentions spans. In fact, more so.


It’s been a while since I’ve read Slate but I recall their “Explainer” series always made a point of putting the answer in the first sentence, with the rest of the article serving as amplification. I really liked that, for the same reason you mentioned.


Also helps that the remaining article isn't just filler-text to hide that one actually interesting fact under and instead consists of interesting facts in every sentence.




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