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Thoughts on writing the lede

Thousands, no, tens of thousands of words have been written about how to write a news lede (or lead, or leed). Whole forests have been felled. So rather than recap a lot of that same information, let me suggest you get the basics by visiting some of the sites linked to in the lede sentence of this post, and instead I will just offer a few supplemental thoughts of my own.

  • If you haven’t already, go read my previous post on the use of tense in ledes.
  • Likewise, my post on names in ledes.
  • Now, in addition: A lede should always feature the ‘grabbiest’ element of the story. Usually, that means featuring the conflict (if any) expressed or implied in the narrative. Other times, it means featuring the ‘twist’ element, or the celebrity name, or some other ‘sexy’ aspect.
  • Ledes, more so than any other part of a broadcast news script, must be in the active voice, if at all possible. (This differs a bit from print, where the important thing is to have the newsmaker as the subject of the sentence, which sometimes forces you into the passive voice.)
  • Ledes should orient the audience, not disorient it. This means different things depending on the audience. In the case of OutQ News, we run a service heard nationwide, so every lede must locate the story in a state or major city. For a local broadcast news operation that does breaking news around the clock, it might instead mean always including a reference to the time the news event occurred.
  • For spot news, such as we do here, only a straight lede is suitable. Creative-type ledes, such as the delayed lede which pushes the ‘nut’ (i.e. point) of the story down several paragraphs, are a no-go.

I’ll include more thoughts on ledes in future entries on related topics–or just as ideas come to me. That’s the great thing about a blog.

Questions? Feel free to add a comment below or [encode_email email=”” display=”email me”].

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