Writing a good lede“I’ve always been a believer that if I’ve got twohours in which to do something, the bestinvestment I can make is to spend the firsthour and 45 minutes of it getting a good lead,because after that everything will comeeasily” Don Wycliff Chicago Tribune
Summary Lede• Most traditional lede• To the point and factual• Gives reader quick summary of story in as few words as possible.• Usually one sentence.• Summary ledes often focus on the who and what of the story and then follow closely with the when and where. The how and why may be explained or suggested further into the story.
For example The purchase of new computers will strain next year’s budget, Adelphi University President Robert Scott announced at last week’s faculty meeting.(Under 25 words, focuses on who and what)
Tips for writing a summary lede• Use few words (25 max.)• Focus on the most important of the 5W’s and H.• Summarize the most newsworthy fact within the first 10 words.• Begin with the subject of the most newsworthy fact (usually the who or what)• Cite source of any opinions.• Consider a delayed identification or blind lede.
Blind lede• Unless the names or locations are extremely well known AND of high interest, begin with the interesting fact and lead the reader into the subsequent paragraphs to get the specifics. Most of the time it’s best to use this approach for a summary lead.
For example For saving the life of the victim of a hit-and-run accident, two Adelphi Universityjuniors were honored for bravery. In a ceremony held last week, DaveDavidson and Tiffany Ng received aplaque naming them heroes. Davidsonand Ng pulled communications professorMary Johnson from a car just before itexploded.
Creative ledes• Unless you’re writing hard news in a daily newspaper, the summary lede just doesn’t reel in readers. Leads for the stories you will be writing for your Circle assignments generally require more creativity. Consider: The three bears lived happily ever after once upon a time before Goldilocks ate all the porridge and broke Baby Bear’s chair.
For example Not even subzero temperatures could stop progress. With a thud, bulldozers churned the icy earth, beginning work on the College’s new technology center. “The Hancock Technology Center will offer students state-of-the-art facilities and relieve overcrowding of current computer labs,” Nassau Community College President Dennis Murray said at the ground-breaking ceremony Monday.(This story could have been given a standard summary lede, but this has more flair.)
Don’t forget the nut graph• When you use a creative lede, it may not contain the most important facts or tell exactly what the story is about right up front. That info may be delayed until a later paragraph, which is known as the “nut graph.”• The nut graph is the paragraph that contains the basic core – or nutshell – of the story.• Don’t take too long getting to the nutgraph. Hit it by the third paragraph at the latest.
For example “Clones! Or am I seeing double? Hey,are you guys related?” Junior twins Andrew and Doug Overtonsay dealing with “lame” jokes is just one ofthe disadvantages of going through life asa twin. But they admit there are plenty ofadvantages, too. (nut graph is in second paragraph)
Scenic Lede• Begin with a description of a scene surrounding an event.• Typically used for stories in which the setting is prominent, such as Homecoming, commencement, Freshman Orientation, plays, etc.
For example Bubbles floated through sea-greenstreamers. Turquoise light played on thewalls. Sea shells cupped glimmeringcandles. With the first notes of ‘Atlantis,’ AlphaSigma Tau’s ‘Under-the-Sea’-themedWinter Ball began.
Storytelling lede• Using a narrative style, begin by introducing the main characters, the conflict and perhaps the setting of the story.• Make readers feel the drama and want to know what’s going to happen next.• Identification of people can be postponed until a later paragraph to avoid disrupting the flow of the lede.
For example The man reached out a dirty hand,palm up. “All I’ve got is a few bucks,” MattO’Malley said, reaching into his pocket. The next thing O’Malley knew, he wason the ground with a boot on his chest.The Adelphi University junior was beingmugged.
Punch lede• Open with an amazing fact or startling statement that arouses reader interest. Adelphi University students spend an average of seven hours per day surfing the Internet.
Opposite lede• Cite one point of view or observation and then follow with the opposite view. Facebook rots the brain, according to new research by Adelphi University psychology professor Kendrick Jones. Anita Patel, an honors student at Adelphi University, says that just isn’t true.
Bad Ledes• Avoid using a question or quote as your lede. It’s usually overused and misused.• Similary, avoid “picture this” or “imagine this.” Readers have seen this too many times.• Avoid topical ledes, like “Students posting on the website JuicyCampus.com is a controversial issue.• Similary, “Harvard professor Cornel West spoke about race relations at Adelphi University last week.”
More examples of topical ledes• Adelphi’s basketball team battled Pace in a crucial conference playoff Saturday.• The school board convened Tuesday night to discuss complaints about the cafeteria.• This past weekend was Adelphi’s annual Family Weekend, which included a list of events students were able to attend with their family members.• Held in the Student Center on Friday, October 5, the annual Fall 2007 Leadership Conference took place, which lasted from 3- 6 p.m.
Also avoid• Avoid stating the obvious in your lede: “Winter is here again.” Or “This election is expected to be one of the most significant in history.” (They say that about ALL elections.)• Wordiness. Be concise. Eliminate unnecessarily wordy phrases. You dont need to say "will be going" when "will go" or "goes" will work just fine.• Never use a dictionary definition. It’s a lazy way out.
More tips• Avoid when ledes, unless the time something occurred is by far the most important fact. Too many stories start with a dull accounting of time, such as “This year..” or “On Oct. 4…” or “Last week…”
For example• Bad lede: On Friday, July 15, 2001, three students won a regional choral competition.• Good lede: Three Adelphi juniors took home $500 and top honors Friday in a regional choral contest.
Finally• Don’t settle for the first lede you come up with. Try several before choosing the best one.