3 heinous lede forms to avoid

These opening paragraphs (and their variations) are hackneyed and should be shunned.

Let’s talk about three unforgivable ledes, and why you would be justified to find the perpetrator of such a lede and strangle him or her as a service to the reading world at large.

I put these ledes in no particular order, because they’re all so irritating, trite, and silly that I can’t decide which is the worst.

The “Have you ever wondered” lede.

This one usually goes something like, “Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of Company X’s blah-blah department?” There are scores of variations.

“Oh, yes!” the reader is supposed to think. “Just the other day I was standing in line at the grocery store pondering that very thing! I didn’t know it until now, but I’ve actually been desperate to know just what goes on in that mysterious blah-blah department. How did I exist without knowing? Now I get to find out! O joyous day!”

I can safely say that with all the “have you ever wondered” ledes I’ve seen, I have never actually wondered about whatever it is the story wants me to wonder about. The only thing I wonder is how fast I can find a garbage can in which to puke after having to read this lede yet again.

The recipe lede.

Throw a dash of blather, a sprinkle of jargon, with just a soupçon of irksome platitudes. Toss liberally with clichés, et voilà! You have the dreaded recipe lede.

You should dread this lede. I dread this lede. Readers dread this lede. This lede is a four- finger gagger. What’s more, it’s the mark of the amateur (except most amateurs don’t use the word soupçon, but I had to do something to make this more palatable).

What does the recipe lede serve up? It’s never a good story. Rather than a digestible delight—which is what a lede should be—this lede is a recipe for disaster. It should come with a black-box warning next to it that says: “Reading this lede causes severe eye-rolling and irretrievably lost credibility.”

Unless there is truly a recipe involved, and maybe even then, this lede is just too hard to swallow.

The “According to Webster’s” lede.

I have a girlfriend who taught college English. She failed every single student who used this travesty, and she was right to do it. I’m not sure I can find the words, even with a dictionary, to explain why this lede is so awful. You’ve all seen this lede. It goes something like this: “According to Webster’s Dictionary, the meaning of the word ‘blah-blah’ is…”

Wow, the reader is meant to think, I had no idea the word “blah-blah” meant that. I mean it’s hardly a common term, is it? This is so very illuminating! Having its secret meaning revealed for me in this way has been life-changing. Where can I get one of these Webster things, anyway?

Remember that dictionaries put so-called words like “ginormous” in them. Why would you want to use as a source any book that validates “ginormous”? If you want to be original, you could consider consulting the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s bigger and more impressive.

When it comes to writing—especially if you’re not a writer (and you will find that most of these ledes are not written by professionals)—bigger is better. The OED is big. If you dropped it on your foot, which is what you might consider doing instead of writing the “according to Webster’s” lede, you’d smash several small bones, which is far less painful than reading any of these ledes.

This article was written by Cassandra, the pen name of a veteran internal communicator.


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