Your article’s opening sentence can mean the difference between enticing a reader onward or losing his or her attention. In the journalism world, we call this sentence the “lede.” It can also be spelled “lead.”
The lede should hint at the material to follow while being compelling. Easy right? In practice, ledes are often the most time-consuming part of the writing process but I have some tips and tricks to offer.
Let’s start with a few examples from my published articles.
Fleeing her dangerous ex-husband left Tonja with little choice but to live out of a car with her two children.
That is the opening line of a cover story I wrote for Fort Worth Weekly. What followed was an account of how a single mother eventually received help from the city through its Directions Home program. Her story was harrowing, and it was important that I didn’t sugarcoat her plight. The lede captured the dire state of her life, and it (hopefully) enticed the reader to read the entire story.
Ledes can also be lighthearted. For a recent beer blog, I played with the fact that my beer column and the bar I was reviewing had similar names.
No, On Tap in Fort Worth (the Fort Worth Weekly’s craft beer column) and On Tap DFW (the newish growler fill station in Arlington) aren’t related in any way, other than the fact that we both have a knack for great branding.
This was my attempt at a little humor. It is a beer blog, after all.
A friend of mine used this funny lede once: Like J.Lo’s love, these family friendly events don’t cost a thing.
Try to be creative while staying on topic. If the article is serious, strike a serious tone from the onset. In a sense, the lede needs to capture the following story in one sentence. When reading the newspaper or other publications, start noticing the thought that goes into the first sentence.
As the TCU motto says, Lede On!