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Writing for the Web is a skill that’s easy to learn but difficult to master. One of the hardest elements is concocting a great lede; ledes being the one chance you have of persuading readers to commit to an article in full. Which is exactly what you’re doing in your head right about now.

What Is A Lede?

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A lede, also known as a lead or intro, is that collection of words you see above you. It’s an introduction, an opener, an invitation to read further. Ledes exist in all forms of media, and burying the lede is generally considered to be a sinful act.

Ledes need to convey the essence of the longer piece they’re introducing. Traditional journalism Top 7 TV News Outlets That Accept Your Newsworthy Pictures And Videos Top 7 TV News Outlets That Accept Your Newsworthy Pictures And Videos Juice up your cell. If news is breaking, be on the scene. Here are seven television news outlets waiting to accept your newsworthy pictures and videos. This the golden age of citizen journalism. Read More dictates you reveal the who, what, where, when, why, and how. But writing for the Web requires a slightly different approach, as we’re about to discover.

The following tips will help you learn the essentials to crafting a good lede. Unfortunately, as with most things in life, only practice makes perfect. Think of this article as a starting point, with the endpoint — and writing ledes becoming second nature — following a few years into the future.

#1 Keep It Short

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People have short attention spans at the best of times, but this is especially true when they’re browsing the Web. There are a wealth of arresting articles, fantastic features, and worthy websites all vying for eyeballs, so there is little point in presenting casual browsers with a long lede and hoping they will read all the way to the end. To put it simply, they won’t.

For this reason it’s important to pare your lede down to just one or two paragraphs. The average reader will happily commit to reading a lede of this length, and, combined with a compelling title, they will wring all the information necessary from it to know whether they want to read further.

#2 Grab Their Attention

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One or two paragraphs doesn’t provide much room to pull someone gently into the warm embrace of a long article. So you have to grab a reader’s attention almost immediately. In order to do this a lot of websites employ a strategy of offering vague promises of wonderment This Painfully Ordinary Chrome Plugin Is Probably Slightly Less Boring Than Working This Painfully Ordinary Chrome Plugin Is Probably Slightly Less Boring Than Working Sick of sites that share someone else's content and give it a linkbait headline? The Downworthy Chrome Plugin turns flagrantly linkbait headlines into something a bit more… Well, honest. Read More , but these are cheap gimmicks you would do well to avoid if you want to build a lasting relationship with your audience.

Don’t offer readers the world, instead offer them a concise appeal to read further. Make actual promises rather than vague promises, thereby offering an insight into what an individual will gain from reading further down the page. Tell them what they will learn and/or how they will be entertained. And always try to lure them into following you down the rabbit hole.

#3 Impart Informal Information

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The Web is a freer environment than a traditional newsroom, so while a newspaper journalist with a big scoop needs to reveal the main thrust of the story within those opening paragraphs, those of us writing for the Web can bend and break the rules. In fact, there are no hard and fast rules, just advice.

This lack of a rigid set of rules means you can forgo the desire to pass all the relevant information on to potential readers. Sure, they need to be told the essence of the article, but without being weighed down by the extra facts and figures which will be revealed later on in the piece.

#4 Use A Clever Hook

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The content contained further in any individual article should be strong enough for you to feel justified in posting it online in the hopes that someone will read it. But employing a clever hook in the lede can help draw people in. Otherwise they may never get to read the words of wisdom you have carefully penned below your opener.

Literary hooks come in various shapes and sizes. But they all share the same common denominator; existing in order to gently persuade people to continue reading.

Examples include trailing off mid-sentence and suggesting more is to follow, opening with a quote that only gets contextualized further down the article, and offering a hint of a startling revelation that is revealed in full much later in the piece.

#5 Leave Ledes To Last

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Finally, and most importantly, is leaving the lede until last. This may sound like a bizarre piece of advice, but it’s the only way you’ll truly know you’ve achieved all you can with your chosen lede.

By all means have a lede in mind when you start writing an article or blog post for the Web. But don’t commit anything to paper (or at least screen) until the rest of the article is finished. At which point you’ll know exactly what the essence of the piece is and be more able to judge what tone, style, and structure will work for the lede on that particular article.

Conclusions

This article is all about ledes, so finishing up with a set of important conclusions seems a little unnecessary. If you have read this far then you’re now better equipped to write a great lede than you were previously. And now you must excuse me as I have a lede to write for this very piece. How did I do?

Image Credits: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr, Dyanna Hyde via Flickr, Nomadic Lass via Flickr, Shaylor via Flickr, Lord Jim via Flickr, Lilivanili via Flickr, Simply CVR via Flickr

  1. Anonymous Coward
    April 26, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    The variant spelling of lead that has become popular in recent years is an annoying affectation. Other than that, it's an excellent article.

  2. Gerald
    April 22, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Lede? WTF happened to 'opening paragraph'?

  3. Saikat B
    April 14, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Doesn’t matter how you spell the word, as long as the ones you write are good.

  4. Carol Rivermoon
    April 13, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    So why are you calling the opening paragraph(s) of a Web document a Lede ? What's wrong with using words which actually exist, such as Lead or Intro ? I understand having to invent a new word for something that has not existed or has substantially changed. This seems like changing an existing thing just because you can. The formatting of "ledes" sounds more like fiction writing--again something that's been around for quite some while. This may well bother me a bit more than it would others because I have worked as a professional journalist. Please, do not bend and spindle the language more than you have to ??

    • Brian
      April 19, 2014 at 12:06 am

      Carol, as a professional journalist you should be aware that "lede" is not a made-up word or neologism. You can find it in your Merriam-Webster dictionary - assuming you own one.

  5. Jessica C
    April 9, 2014 at 4:01 am

    I'm enjoying all the photos you chose for this one, Dave. Creative angles & classy.

    Good lede. You should write your next article about how to write a conclusion, without cheating! ;)

  6. Carol
    April 7, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    A "lede" is a "lead." Orwellian newspeak is not necessary for intelligent readers.

    • Justin P
      April 8, 2014 at 12:40 am

      All newspeak is Orwellian. Both words are not necessary for intelligent readers.

    • Dave P
      April 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      You spell it "lead" and I'll spell it "lede" and we'll both be happy in our post-1984 world where the freedom to use your own preferred spellings still exists.

    • Brian
      April 19, 2014 at 12:10 am

      I wonder about people's ability to do simple research. "Lede" is a legitimate word and not merely the author's whimsical invention. You can quite easily verify this (and should have done so before posting) by nothing more arduous than typing the word "lede" - and nothing else - into Google, or flipping through your dictionary.

  7. Anonymous
    April 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    great lede!

  8. David O
    April 6, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    As an new contributor to makeusof myself, I found much of use in your article. Leaving till last is something that had never occurred to me, but I can see that as being a very useful approach.

    Many thanks!

    • Dave P
      April 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      No problem. It can really help you tighten your ledes until they're as sharp and to-the-point as possible.

      And welcome to MakeUseOf :)

  9. wally mountz
    April 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    You got me to read it!

    All good ideas.

    • Dave P
      April 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      I'm extremely glad it worked. It would have been pretty bad had this particular lede failed to hit.

  10. Rob
    April 5, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Well written!

    • Dave P
      April 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      Thanks. I hope it helped in some small way :)

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