Lead paragraph

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A lead paragraph (sometimes shortened to lead; in the United States sometimes spelled lede) is the opening paragraph of an article, essay, book chapter, or other written work that summarizes its main ideas.[1] Styles vary widely among the different types and genres of publications, from journalistic news-style leads to a more encyclopaedic variety.

Types of leads

  • Journalistic leads emphasize grabbing the attention of the reader.[2] In journalism, the failure to mention the most important, interesting or attention-grabbing elements of a story in the first paragraph is sometimes called "burying the lead". Most standard news leads include brief answers to the questions of who, what, why, when, where, and how the key event in the story took place. In newspaper writing, the first paragraph that summarizes or introduces the story is also called the "blurb paragraph", "teaser text" or, in the United Kingdom, the "standfirst".[3]
  • Leads in essays summarize the outline of the argument and conclusion that follows in the main body of the essay.
  • Encyclopedia leads tend to define the subject matter as well as emphasize the interesting points of the article.
  • Features and general articles in magazines tend to be somewhere between journalistic and encyclopedian in style and often lack a distinct lead paragraph entirely.

Leads vary enormously in length, intent and content, according to genre.

Other introductions

In journalism, there is the concept of an introductory or summary line or brief paragraph, located immediately above or below the headline, and typographically distinct from the body of the article.[4] This can be referred with a variety of terms, including: the standfirst (UK),[4] rider,[citation needed] kicker (US),[4] bank head(line), deck, dek, or subhead (US).[citation needed]

A foreword is a piece of writing sometimes placed at the beginning of a book or other piece of literature, written by someone other than the author to honour or bring credibility to the work, unlike the preface, written by the author, which includes the purpose and scope of the work.[5]


The term is sometimes spelled "lede".[6] The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) suggests this arose as an intentional misspelling of "lead", "in order to distinguish the word's use in instructions to printers from printable text,"[7] similarly to "hed" for "head(line)" and "dek" for "deck". Some sources suggest the altered spelling was intended to distinguish from the use in typesetting of "lead" for the metal strips of various thickness used[8] to separate lines of type[9] used in typesetting in the early 20th century.[1] However, the spelling "lede" first appears in journalism manuals in the 1980s, well after lead typesetting's heyday.[10][11][12][13][14][15] The earliest appearance of "lede" cited by the OED is 1951.[7]

According to Grammarist.com, the "lede" is "mainly journalism jargon for the introductory portion of a news story... Strictly speaking, [it] is the first sentence or short portion of an article that gives the gist of the story and contains the most important points readers need to know".[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Carol" (author unidentifiable) (November 28, 2000). "The Mavens' Word of the Day: lede". RandomHouse.com. New York: Random House/Bertelsmann. "Maven's Word of the Day" blog (defunct as of 2012). Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-28. This tertiary source reuses information from other sources but does not name them.
  2. ^ Peha & Lester (2006). Be a Writer: Your Guide to the Writing Life!: Proven Tips and Powerful Techniques to Help Young Writers Get Started. Leverage Factory. p. 125. ISBN 9780977300006.
  3. ^ Spark, David; Harris, Geoffrey (2010). Practical Newspaper Reporting. Sage Publications. pp. 89, 90, 94, 167. ISBN 9781473903340.
  4. ^ a b c "Standfirst". Double-Tongued Dictionary. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  5. ^ Pope, Geoff (18 November 2010). ""Foreword" Versus "Forward"". Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips. Macmillan Holdings, LLC. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  6. ^ "Lede". Merriam-Webster Online. Chicago, IL, US: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
  7. ^ a b "lede, n.2". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  8. ^ Harpel, Oscar (1870). Harpel's Typograph, or Book of Specimens. Self-published. p. 246. thin strip of metal separating lines of type.
  9. ^ "Bury the lede or bury the lead: which is right?". Merriam-Webster Online.
  10. ^ Owens, Howard (September 18, 2011). "lede-vs-lead". HowardOwens.com. New York: Owens Press. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  11. ^ William Metz (1977). Newswriting: from lead to "30". Prentice-Hall. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-13-617514-8.
  12. ^ Louis Martin Lyons (1965). Reporting the news: selections from Nieman reports. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 286.
  13. ^ Grant Milnor Hyde (November 2008). Newspaper Editing - A Manual for Editors, Copyreaders and Students of Newspaper Desk Work. Read Books. ISBN 978-1-4437-2632-0.
  14. ^ Carl G. Miller (1962). Modern Journalism. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 33.
  15. ^ Frank Luther Mott (2000). American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United States Through 250 Years, 1690–1940. Routledge/Thoemmes Press. ISBN 978-0-415-22893-0.
  16. ^ "Lead vs. lede". Grammarist.com. Retrieved 8 December 2019.

External links

  • The dictionary definition of lede at Wiktionary