I hate it when an article ledes me on. Things start off promising – the header is enticing, the sub-heading is clever and the lede is saying all the right things. It’s strong and gives a great angle. It asserts a particular opinion, thought or idea and whispers sweet nothings of all of the supporting facts to follow. In fact, the darn thing tells me it’s going to satisfy a particular question and then…I read the article.
After hundreds of words and several opportunities, the article ends without giving me everything it promised. My time is precious and if I need to bill you – expensive. A weak article always makes me feel like the publication accepted my invitation out, ordered from the expensive side of the menu and then high-fived me on the way out the door – or worse, asked me for $50 in the form of an advertisement on the next page.
Writers work hard to craft a strong lede. We want to hook ’em fast and hard. Once hooked, however, your audience expects you to deliver. Don’t tell them there are 10 tips to creating the perfect rock garden and only give them eight. Likewise, if you start your lede off with an anecdote, please follow-up on the person in the anecdote. Readers began the article with them, they’d like to hear how things turned out.
A lede is never meant to carry the whole article. A lede introduces the topic and angle. The paragraphs that follow are called supporting paragraphs or the body of the article for a reason. Those paragraphs provide researched facts and information to support the initial topics.
The best way for a writer to ensure they have satisfied all the promises of their lede is by editing from a reader’s point of view. The editing process isn’t just for grammatical errors, it’s used to find holes in a story. While editing, ask yourself:
- What’s missing?
- Have I explained each point in my lede?
- Are the supporting paragraphs strong enough to support the lede?
- If I had never heard of ____ before, what would I ask or need to know?
Great writing is not only hooking readers in the beginning, it is also defined by its ability to leave readers knowledgeable and satisfied. Be vigilant during the research and editing phases of article writing and make sure your article lives up to its lede’s promise.