Generally, the formula works. But individual facts, as well as individuals, can become lost in the crowd.
It’s why I loved this simple sentence from The New York Times’ reporting of the exodus from Afghanistan. Reporter Farnaz Fassihi begins this 571-word article in classic inverted pyramid:
A member of Afghanistan’s national youth soccer team was among the people who were killed as they tried desperately to cling to a U.S. military plane evacuating people from Kabul this week, the country’s official sports federation said on Thursday.
A lot of action in that lead. It would have been easy enough to slip in the teenager’s name and age. Instead, Fassihi sets off those facts in the second graf, using a secret weapon: the passive verb.
His name was Zaki Anwari, and he was 17.
Here, “was” becomes so … final. Zaki will never be a member of the youth soccer team again. He will never be 18.
Writing celebrates the active. Those verbs can make us dance, play, romp, run — they let us see. Sometimes, though, the lowly passive can break our hearts.