Let your lede lead the way

Apart from a catchy headline, your article’s lede/intro is one of its most important aspects: the place where you make a promise to your readers about the content and context of your article, and what kind of information they can expect in the rest of the article.


Image credit: @deathtostock

Your lede will either excite, intrigue, and successfully draw a reader in or, on the flipside, cause them to ignore your article like a stop sign. Sure, that may sound a bit dramatic to some, but unless you are a really good writer who knows your audience like the back of your hand, rather avoid trying to be funny, ‘punny’, or random when it comes to your lede.

Often times, applying old-school journalistic skills to your writing can make the world’s difference. It would be wrong to think that you should or could apply all of it, but it would be as a big mistake to discard basic journalistic principles altogether.

Let’s look at the basic rule of the inverted pyramid, for example. A classic, fail-proof principle that helps you to capture a reader’s attention right from the get-go.

What is the inverted pyramid?

The pyramid’s foundation, like with any other building, is the most important part of the whole structure. So when we talk about an inverted pyramid (an upside-down pyramid) in essence, we’re saying to put the most important information at the top (in the lede), rather than at the bottom (in the conclusion or somewhere in the middle).

The inverted pyramid is especially useful when it comes to online writing. Firstly, because online readers have a super short attention span, and secondly because online readers have a such a myriad of information to sift through and choose from. If your article isn’t standing out from the clutter or if it isn’t giving them sufficient information at a glance, they’ll simply scroll on by.

But how do you narrow down all your information to ensure you have most important stuff covered in the intro? Fairly easy. You use the magical 5 Ws and an H as a guideline:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

For example: “According to a recent report by Company X (who), an estimated 46% of South Africans (where) will make the switch to online purchases (what) by the end of 2019 (when) due to the rapid increase of smartphone usage in the country (why). Here’s how you as a marketer can benefit from it. (How)”

In the abovementioned example, you’ll notice ALL 5 Ws and an H. This isn’t always necessary though.

Alternative tips and tricks

  • Be specific. Give names. Use keywords. Will your readers know exactly what this piece is about once they get into it?
  • Get right to the point.
  • Cut it down to 35-40 words.
  • Don’t be afraid of being creative. I know earlier on I said it’s better to avoid being funny… The truth is, if you have a great teaser intro (that you are positive will draw a reader in), then use it!
  • Use active voice rather than passive voice.
  • Read your lede out loud to yourself.
  • Avoid creating a lede that sounds like an editor’s note – telling them what you’re going to write about, before you start writing about it. That is simply a waste of words and a waste of your readers’ time.

Do you often struggle with writing an awesome lede? We can help with that! We’d love to hear from you, find out more about what you do and collaborate with you. Why not get in touch?

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