The Minto Pyramid Principle

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We can only read one sentence at a time, but the resulting information received is tree-shaped. This presents a challenge to the writer to ensure the transformation matches the intended tree structure otherwise the reader may misinterpret the ideas shared. That’s why organizing ideas is important and explaining the connections between ideas so the reader doesn’t have to.

A theoretical tool that checks a piece of business writing against a set of rules from The Minto Pyramid Principle. Like a code linter, this would serve as a ratchet for improving the output of others—in this case, those sharing business writing like strategy memos, 1 pagers, and project briefs.

Categories are not a useful way of demarcating sections in a document because they don’t support the structure of answering the key question of the document. For example ‘Background’ doesn’t say anything and the reader is forced to read through the section to connect the ideas rather than providing it to them. Section titles should answer the next question reader has from the preceding section to make it easier to understand your argument.

The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto.

Connecting key lines in a document is important to answer the key question and provide clear reasoning. To do that, structure the document using inductive arguments rather than deductive arguments. That’s because a deductive structure could introduce a large distance (number of paragraphs) between the problem and answer which the reader would be required to hold in their head and build their own connections which can be confusing and difficult to read.

To have clear writing, always give the summarizing idea first, before the individual ideas that are being summarized. This helps with clarity because you are providing the connection between the ideas upfront so the reader doesn’t need to make their own association which leads to confusion.

When forming a horizontal relationship between ideas (e.g. supporting sentences of a summary statement), they should form an inductive or deductive argument. This makes the connection of ideas more clear to the reader and improves overall reader understanding.