All about leads . . . Leading into your story Judy Kahalas for Roxbury Community College
Keep it short! • A good lead is short (sometimes less than 25 words)! • A good lead summarizes the story so that the reader knows whether to tune in or tune out. • A good lead answers the 5 Ws • A good lead follows the S-V-O pattern.
Practice 1: Use this to write a lead. A 21-year-old woman disappeared last weekend. She was a senior at the University of Vermont. She was wearing a Puma bag and a pea coat. Her parents were on campus that weekend visiting her. They notified police when she didn’t meet them as planned.The FBI and the National Guard are involved in the search.
Know the different kinds of leads. • The straight news lead (also known as the hard news lead or summary lead) This is the most common type of lead. It states the important information in a simple sentence: Deval Patrick has a 30% lead in the polls over his Republican opponent, Kerry Healey.
The quote lead . . . • When you are lucky enough to get a great quote that can tell the reader what is necessary, go with it: “Now, we try to care for the whole person – physically, mentally, and spiritually,” said Dr. David Dageforde, who has devoted his life to faith-based medicine.
The anecdote lead . . . • Tells a brief story that illuminates for the reader the main point of the news story. Use an anecdote only when it will do the job of unfolding your story thoroughly and with complete accuracy. James Watson was eating lunch alone at the Downtown Deli last Thursday. As he read his horoscope in The Boston Globe, he was horrified to see that it predicted something dire. Five minutes later, choking on his salami, he was rushed by ambulance to the Mass. General Hospital.
The list lead . . . • When you build your story around a series of facts or examples (anywhere from 2 – 5), you can use them successfully in your lead. An elderly man confused the gas with the brake and pummeled his car into a group of six pedestrians. A 78-year-old woman couldn’t see the car as it passed and veered into its way, causing her own death and the death of the other driver. An elderly couple got lost on the country roads of the lower Cape and, without a cell phone, they froze to death before someone found them.
The descriptive lead . . . • This lead gives the reader a more visual framework in which to place the story. It uses description. The shaggy-haired man slowly pushed a shopping cart that carried his belongings in an oversized trash bag.
The question lead . . . • Use an interesting question that is followed by an answer to the 5 Ws. Which community college offers a city campus, cultural diversity, and faculty whose commitment and experience have consistently won them recognition? Roxbury Community College, located just minutes from Downtown Boston, provides students with an opportunity to learn not only from their professors but from students from around the globe.
Don’t do the following: • Bury your lead (by not placing it in the beginning of your story). • Use clichés (expressions that are overused). • Bring your reader into the story as a participant (using the word “you”).