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How to Write a Great Lede

The First and Most Important Sentence of Your News Story


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What Is the Lede?

The lede (that’s how journalists spell it) is the first paragraph of any news story. It’s also the most important. The lede must accomplish several things:

  • give readers the main points of the story
  • get readers interested in reading the story
  • accomplish both “a” and “b” in as few words as possible

Typically editors want ledes to be no longer than 35-40 words. Why so short? Readers want their news delivered quickly. A short lede does just that.

What Goes in the Lede?

Journalists use the five “W’s and the H” – Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.
  • Who – who is the story about?
  • What – what is the story about?
  • Where – where did the event you’re writing about occur?
  • When – when did it occur?
  • Why – why did this happen?
  • How – how did this happen?


Let’s say you’re writing a story about a man who was injured when he fell off a ladder. Here are your five W’s and H:
  • Who – the man
  • What – he fell off a ladder while painting
  • Where – at his house
  • When – yesterday
  • Why – the ladder was rickety
  • How – the rickety ladder broke

So your lede might go something like this:

A man was injured yesterday when he fell off a rickety ladder that collapsed while he was painting his house.

That sums up the main points of the story in just 20 words, which is all you need for the lede.

Click here for Five Steps to Writing a Great Lede

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