The pyramid principle: Logic in writing
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Top customer reviews
This one; The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking written in 1985. Pearson published it in 1987, for sale only outside the US. They had first dibs on the second book but turned it down. Then, when the second book became popular, they gussied up the exhibits on the first book and slapped a current date on it. But it is still the 1985 edition.
The one you actually want; The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking and Problem Solving. First published in 1996, it is 12 chapters and three appendices vs 9 chapters and 1 appendix and the examples are a bit more up to date.
It wasn't apparent from the information on Amazon that there are 2 versions of the book but having now seen them both I regret purchasing this one (the Pearson / FT Prentice Hall edition). Do yourself a favour and buy the correct version. If you write reports of any kind you'll find it very helpful.
This book has transformed the way i write emails, presentations and even contract my sentences!
In a way engineers are ideal for applying this book: they have been trained to be logical, follow instruction and be rigorous. They now know they have not been to be to the bottom of an technical issue until they can reach this level of clarity. They also realize they do not need to inflict the same pain to the reader as what they had to go through to get to the right answer !
Unexpected difficult to read but very gratifying although requires iron self-discipline to apply the methodology.
The basic premise of the book is to introduce some standard consulting tools for structuring thinking and writing
- the pyramid principle of organising your thoughts and summarising up front (drawing the conclusion for the reader from the start) rather than at the end and presenting directive supporting arguments later;
- the situation, complication resolution (question-answer) structure;
- the MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) way of organising thinking.
All of these are occasionally useful - dealing with relatively straightforward problems in situations with little dynamic complexity, and exclusively for business type writing. While it is the natural inclination of a consultant to be strongly prescriptive (thou shall do this or that) and while inductive reasoning is preferable (as one can hide weak arguments better that way) this is not an approach that will always work with clients (or in a non-consulting corporate environment), and is certainly not something that will help you writing academic publications, or help you in fiction writing at all - in fact one needs to throw all the advice given here overboard before attempting any of these latter two.
In terms of style it is also very strongly reflects Minto's background - strongly prescriptive, not seriously considering any alternatives but hers, sloppy in literature research (taking the most convenient or widely read source, rather than the most profound or the original one) and relatively condescending - if you've ever worked in the industry, there is at least some entertainment value in being reminded of it (if you've just faced it from the receiving end as a client, I am sure it will produce groans).
On a final note, a book on clear writing and organising thinking logically, should read well and the points made should immediately jump out at the reader and stick with him. Here Minto falls short on both counts - having had several years of consulting behind me I still found it very tedious to follow (in spite of knowing the content relatively well) - if not exactly difficult (there is no attempt to make this a research supported scientific treatise), and the lack of chapter summaries at the end (and corresponding blankness on what exactly she was trying to convey in the specific chapter) directly negates the pyramid principle of writing for the application presented - a 'how to' guide.
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