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How to Write a News Article: The Intro or Lede

Basic guidelines for creating news articles in print, photos, and video.

About Ledes

The introduction to a news article is called the 'lede' and is usually in the first paragraph as in an essay. The 'lede' is a deliberate misspelling of 'lead' to prevent confusion in the days when printing was done with lead type.

The lede not only tells what the story is about, it also invites the reader to read further. Ledes answer the classic 5 W's and an H questions of journalism:

What happened? What could happen?

Who did it? Who did it happen to? Who else was involved?

Where did it happen? Where else will be impacted?

When did it happen? When is it going to happen?

Why did it happen? Why will your reader care?

How did it happen? How does it work?

Some specific types of ledes -

  • The summary lede or 'hard news' lede delivers the 5 W's and an H in the 1st paragraph, getting to the most important or compelling information immediately - A California mother is recovering from second- and third-degree burns after colored rocks her family collected from beach unexpectedly caught fire while in her pocket.

  • An analysis lede introduces a story where the basic facts are already known and where readers are looking for explanation - The suspension of US sanctions in Myanmar in response to political reforms gives a green light to US firms looking for business opportunities.

  • A blind lede is a summary lede that leaves out particularly confusing details - World leaders say they are committed to soothing financial markets to prevent an economic calamity.

  • A narrative lede sets the scene for the article by introducing the main players - Eight California high-schoolers with the same last name pull off a witty stunt.

  • A scene-setter lede introduces the article by highlighting a key location in the story - A broken-down cargo ship drifts towards the fringes of Australia's Great Barrier Reef amid fears of major damage to the World Heritage-listed site.

Tips for writing and revising ledes -

  • Read your lede OUT LOUD - Do you stumble over words? Does it sound like something you would tell a friend? Eliminate any words you trip over or that are confusing.

  • Cut out extra words - See how many words you can eliminate. Have you put in description that could come later in the article? Have you added details that slow down readers' scanning? Have you used only words that will catch a reader's attention?
    • Especially look for passive verbs - is playing should be plays.

  • Check for accuracy - Have you spelled names correctly? Did you give the right locations, times, and dates? Is what you said what you meant to say? Is what you said what actually happened?

  • Avoid cliche and cute -Clichés are overused expressions that have stopped being original. Think carefully about whether you're using phrases or words that you hear everyday, even popular ones, and work for something more original.