Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #21 - How to write a lede

Note: We recommend that you print this text and distribute it to your students.


In a single paragraph, a lead must summarize the basic facts of a story and convey to a reader what you found out in your reporting. But it must be more than just an opening to your story. The lead must also catch a reader's or listener's attention and make them want to read the rest of your story.

Journalists are taught a simple rule about basic news leads, called the "5-W's." They are: Who? What? Where? When? Why? A sentence or paragraph that gives a reader the answer to all the five W's will automatically summarize any story.

There are many other kinds of news leads, but they all fall into two categories: "hard" leads and "soft" leads. The choice depends on the nature of the story and determines the form of the rest of the story. A hard lead is suited for an urgent, breaking event, while a soft lead is more indirect and suited to feature writing.

A hard lead:

If Canada and France don't reach an agreement on fish quotas by Sept. 30 Ottawa will unilaterally impose one, Fisheries Minister John Crosbie says.
-- St. John's Evening Telegram, Sept. 16, 1992.

A soft lead:

Bryan Adams spoke and the fans listened. "Be good to Osoyoos," Adams told the crowd of 30,000 who gathered in the Okanagan town Sunday for the only B.C. stop in his Waking Up the Nation tour. "Osoyoos has been good to you tonight. So have a good time and don't wreck the place." Then the clean cut kid from North Vancouver gave the fans what they had come for.
-- Vancouver Sun, Sept. 8, 1992


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