Are you ready for a nerdy journalism debate? I sure hope so. What’s the proper spelling: lead or lede?
Credit the great Romenesko (via Bleacher Report) for rehashing this age-old debate on whether to refer to the first sentence of an article as the “lead” or, harkening back to the days of linotype, “lede.”
“Some years ago, researching the evolution of ‘objective journalism,’ I cracked open many of these old books, and something struck me — in none of these old books did any author spell the word ‘lede.’ They all spell it ‘lead.’
“It was then I realized, there is no historic basis for the spelling of a lead as ‘lede.’ ‘Lede’ is an invention of linotype romanticists, not something used in newsrooms of the linotype era.
“It’s really emblematic of today’s print nostalgia, too — like Desi and Lucy sleeping in separate beds — a longing for an America that never was, or wasn’t quite what you thought it was.”
Perhaps pathetically, I still remember ledes (or leads) that I’m particularly proud of. “In cod they trust” for a story about a husband/wife team of scentless fish oil innovators was a particular favorite.
My advice to fellow writers: Doesn’t matter how you spell the word, as long as the ones you write are good.