2/3/21 Newsletter: Tips From a Pro on Writing a Lede
RE: Tips From a Pro on Writing a Lede
I have reached out to several respected journalists and asked them to share comments that can help you write a compelling first sentence for your stories, otherwise known as the lede or lead.
Our first contributor is Mark Treinen, an editor from Gannett. Mark is a valuable media partner and mentor to students in the program. His comments are below.
For beginning journalists, I think the best type of lede to hone is what I would call a straightforward news lede.
This gives readers a clear idea of the news of the story as well as its impact. It differs from what I would call an anecdotal or scene-setting lede, which starts by weaving a story that will eventually lead to the news and impact.
Example of a straight news lede: “A sprinkler malfunction flooded the high school gymnasium Thursday night (news), which forced the boys and girls basketball teams to postpone their Friday night games (news and impact).”
Generally, the best straight news lede has 25 or fewer words, although this is not a strict rule. It’s also usually best to avoid starting a story with a preposition, such as:
“When (preposition) a sprinkler malfunction flooded the high school gymnasium on Thursday night, the boys and girls basketball teams were forced (passive voice) to postpone their Friday night games.”
Starting with a prepositional phrase often makes a sentence longer than necessary and often forces readers to mentally go back to the start of the sentence to connect the two thoughts.