Write Like a Caveman: The Evolutionary Advantages of the Inverted Style

The point of this article is to make your POINT before your friend becomes dinner for a Sabre Tooth Tiger.

The benefits of inverted journalistic style dates back to caveman times because it gave humans an evolutionary advantage.

Which of these two styles do you think favored the propagation of the human species?

Not Inverted Style (the important point is at the end)

“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, there is a sabre tooth tiger creeping up on you.”

Inverted Style (the important point is at the start)

“There is a sabre tooth tiger creeping up on you, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

CavemenWe all are now journalists reporting to each other over the Internet.

We all have our own microphone as members of a global village in which we are like the town crier who used to make public announcements in the streets.

Therefore, we should take a lesson from journalists, and use the inverted style to state our main message first, then follow that messages with details and embellishment. In other words, “don’t bury the lead of your story,” and don’t start your “story” with a “story” as is the current trend.

The point is, make your point, then tell your “story” so that if the reader is bored, pulls the rip cord and bails out, they at least got your main message.

In business, the “elevator pitch” is the name for making your point up front, so in this situation your elevator pitch would be, “there is a sabre tooth tiger creeping up on you,” which might be a nice way of saying that back-stabbing colleague is about to board the elevator.

People in elevatorFurthermore (yes, I am now digressing), when writing, try to use simple language because people who use big words are not trying to inform you, they are trying to impress you. When I was a magazine editor, my favorite saying was “eschew obfuscation.”

The best way to encourage concise writing would be to reintroduce the quill pen.

If Thomas Jefferson had used a personal computer (instead of a quill pen), the Declaration of Independence would have been ten pages instead of one, and King George might not have taken the time to read it.

Declaration of independence

The number one cause of long-winded and rambling (strike that last word, I am rambling) writing was the invention of the personal computer. With a word processor on a PC, people can spew out words with no restrictions because their fingers operate as fast as their mind.

Wordiness is fine for a first draft, but a writer needs to go back and tighten it up (writing is rewriting). A great writer (and painter) is one who know how to use white space. I do not like reading most non-fiction books — too many words, and repetition, repetition. Most could be condensed to three bullet points.

Ernest Hemingway and creative writing

There is a time when you do not want to be concise, and that is to overcome writer’s block and get that first draft started.

To get things rolling, write a long-winded description of something simple such as follows. “There is a forest, and inside lives lions and tigers and bears. The lions have manes on their shoulders…. the tigers have stripes…, and the bears are covered in fur….”

Creativity and the Wizard of Oz

Another way to start your writing engine is suspend judgement and just write nonsense such as “Mary had a little lamb…..”

When you finish your writing, please go back and shorten it by putting in lots of white space (I would have written a shorter letter if I had the time).

The greatest painters, and writers, are the ones who know how to use “white space,” so learn how to write (and speak) with the color white.


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