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Nov 3 / King Kaufman

Writing great leads: 41 tips on how to do it better

You can never talk too much or too often about how to write a good lead, and Steve Buttry has a great post on leads today at his blog, The Buttry Diary.

If you read this blog, or you’ve educated yourself in any way about journalism, you’ve probably heard plenty of advice about writing leads. I certainly have. But Buttry, who is the director of community engagement and social media at the Journal Register Co. and a longtime writer, editor and teacher, comes up with some tips I’ve never heard.

Among the 41 distinct pieces of advice Buttry gives, for example, is “Tell your story in three words.” That’s a good one. If you can boil your story down to three words, a noun, an active verb and an object, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea what the lead should be.

Dewey defeats Truman. Har.

There’s a lot more good advice than that at the link. Don’t miss it.

By the way, you may have noticed I’ve stopped spelling it “lede.” That’s because Howard Owens, digital pioneer and publisher of the hyperlocal site The Batavian, convinced me in this post that the “lede” spelling is not old-time newsroom custom from the days of hot type, it’s phony nostalgia, a faux-linotype-age artifact invented just as hot type was being phased out.

I dislike nostalgia—you know, it just ain’t what it used to be—so “lead” it is.

  • Steve Buttry

    Thanks for the kind words. When I saw Bleacher Report linking to my blog, I thought you were linking to today’s post about baseball writers’ bias against Roger Maris, not about the lead-writing post:

    • Anonymous

      I’ll comment over there later. I do disagree with your argument about Maris, though not with your basic premise about objectivity.

  • Roberthalasz

    LEAD vs LEDE? When I first saw your spelling, I had to convince myself that “lead” was what you were talking about. Since this is about writing, I figured I would find my answer as I continued to read all the information on writing for this site. I will be reading all the articles suggested, and with my own God-given talent for writing, I hope to be included within the “pages” of this site soon.