The Art of a Good Lede
While an article's title should grab a reader's attention, the first paragraph (or 'lede') convinces him or her to stay and keep reading. Generally, the first paragraph should begin with the central piece of news or information that your article is meant to convey. This sets up the reader with an expectation of what will follow.
Since each singular article is usually part of a larger story, immediately following the first sentence should be any background information that helps give the article context. One should never assume that readers are as well informed as you, the writer (why would they be reading your article if they were?), so use this space to answer any questions like:
- "What led up to this?"
- "Why is this important?"
- "Who are the players and/or organizations involved?"
- "What is this article about?"
A first paragraph should generally be objective and factual, which sets the stage for any exposition, analysis and opinion that follows in subsequent paragraphs.
A few other tips for crafting solid ledes:
- Ideally, a lede should be brief. Dive right in to the topic. You're not writing a novel with tons of prologue.
- Be simple but provocative. Let the reader know what the piece is about, and then make them ache to want to keep reading the piece.
- Don't "tease" readers with what the piece is about. They'll get frustrated and leave. Be honest in your lede.
- If you want to include an anecdote, add it near the end of your story. A lede should be attention-grabbing, and should "top-load" keywords relevant to the article into the opening paragraph. Try to use words the readers are looking for, or you may lose their interest, because they'll think they've picked the wrong article to read.
- The very nature of the web is to try new things; don't limit yourself by staying within typical writing conventions. Experiment.
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