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How to write a lede

Publications department

The museum’s Publications department is always after the curators to liven up their writing for our membership magazine. Avoid dull, plodding openings, they urge — instead, find a lively hook. In journalism this is called the “lede” — it’s spelled that way to avoide confusion with “lead” as in “leading” and “lead type.”

To make the concept clearer to our content providers, the Publications department is assembling a list of ledes that may serve as models of the form. We’ll start with one by the Chronicle‘s John Crumpacker and add more here as they catch our eye:

  • Discovery News, “Spittlebug Beats Flea to Become High Jump Champ
    “The spittlebug’s only claim to fame has been that it can blow bubbles out of its backside….”
    (We are going to learn about spittlebugs!)
  • Rebecca Kelley, SEOMoz, “Are You Forcing Your Users to Superfluously Click?
    “Unnecessary clicks really put the ‘super’ in ‘superfluous,’ yet we run into them all the time….”
    (No translation available.)
  • Susan Valot, The California Report, heard on KQED San Francisco, 10/20/2008
    “Warm, summertime air lays over Sycamore Trails Stables in San Juan Capistrano like a saddle hugs its favorite stallion….”
    (It was hot, so I am confused about “lay” and “lie.”)
  • John Crumpacker, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/26/2008:
    “Symbiosis” is not a word commonly heard in NFL locker rooms, and indeed, it wasn’t this week as the 49ers prepared to play the Saints on Sunday in the Superdome….
    (How can I introduce the subject of reciprocal benefits?)