Burying the Lede

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Burying the lede

In journalism — and many apply this to other forms of writing too — the most important part of your story should come first. If it doesn’t, then you’re burying the lede, or lead as some refer to it.

A lede is essentially the first paragraph/hook/most important part of your story, article, blog, or page.

While you don’t have to give everything away in the beginning of your story, you need to pull in your readers. And most people, attempting to build suspense, actually do the opposite.

Consider the beginning of this story from The Washington Post:

“On Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the struggle for Little Round Top at the Gettysburg Battlefield will be fought again with hundreds of visitors choosing to be a member of the 20th Maine or the 15th Alabama in a free program sponsored by the Civil War Trust and the National Park Service. There is a catch, however. To participate, the visitor must bring someone at least one generation younger — your child, your grandchild, another relative or a friend.”

The lede in this case is that the event is requiring participants in a battle reenactment bring someone from a younger generation in an effort to expose all ages to Civil War history. And the writer communicates this in an interesting manner that entices readers to keep going.

Journalists often follow an inverted pyramid style of writing, where they share the most important part of the story first, and then share supporting details of decreasing importance to the particular story.

How can I stop myself from burying the lede?

Remember Your Roots

Remember when your teachers taught you to write an essay and said you should always summarize what you plan to write about? That your opening paragraph should introduce the topic and its most important point? For example:

  • The secrets to a good paragraph are organization, supporting evidence, and smooth transitions.

Obviously, you’ll want to make it more interesting than the sentence I just wrote, but part of hooking your readers is letting them know what exactly they’re in for.

Write What You Would Want to Know

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes; read your first paragraph. Do you know what the story is about? Do you feel like you know the most important point? Does it make you want to jump right in? If you didn’t answer yes, it’s time to tweak your intro.

To do so, just think about what you would want to read. If the page is about the medical malpractice statute of limitations, don’t use two paragraphs explaining medical malpractice and how it occurs. Put that information in another page, link to it, and get right into the information your readers came for: the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases.

This takes work so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get it right away. It takes a lot of practice. And even practice doesn’t always make perfect; that’s why editors have jobs.

Check out our post on the difference between e.g. and i.e and as always, if you need help with content writing, give us a call: 888-521-3880.