How to Increase the Power and Impact of what you wish to communicate

In a recent article featured in The New Yorker, Calvin Trfillin explains the power and impact of the lede, a writer’s device to attract and then capture attention.

As you may already know, the introduction to a news article is called the “lede” and is usually in the first paragraph as in an essay. The word  “lede” is a deliberate misspelling of “lead” to prevent confusion in the days when printing was done with lead type.

The lede not only tells what the story is about, it also invites the reader to read further. Ledes answer the classic 5 W’s and an H questions of journalism:

What happened? What could happen?

Who did it? Who did it happen to? Who else was involved?

Where did it happen? Where else will be impacted?

When did it happen? When is it going to happen?

Why did it happen? Why will your reader care?

How did it happen? How does it work?

As Trtillin explains, one of his favorite ledes is what Edna Buchanan wrote in the Miami Herald “about an ex-con who became violent in the Church’s fried-chicken line and was shot dead by a security guard: ‘Gary Robinson died hungry.'”

Consider this longer lede in the first paragraph of an article that appeared in the Baton Rouge Advocate on September 23, 2019:

“A veterinarian prescribed antibiotics Monday for a camel that lives behind an Iberville Parish truck stop after a Florida woman told law officers she bit the 600 pound animal’s genitalia after it sat on her when she and her husband entered its enclosure to retrieve their deaf dog.”

That is what the lede accomplishes: it immediately engages the attention of the given audience.

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