4 types of web leads to try — and 3 to avoid
Lede or lead?
You won’t find it in the Oxford English Dictionary. But the alternative spelling lede was supposedly created during the linotype era so as not to confuse lead with the strip of metal that was used to separate lines of type.
The word lede still looks weird to me. But even if you prefer the spelling lede, remember: Leads lead the reader into the body of your piece.
So what types of web content leads should you try?
4 types of web leads to try
Web content’s not a newspaper story. So instead of news leads, try these four types of web leads:
1. Snappy synthesis
Don’t bury the lead under all of the W’s and H’s. Instead, steal a trick from The New York Times, and try snappy synthesis. Synthesize your subject matter into a short, snappy sentence like this:
Russia has a new enemy: the currency markets.
2. Stakeholder benefits
Don’t write about us and our stuff. Instead, draw readers in by focusing on how they can use, or benefit from, our products, services, programs and ideas. Here’s how that looks:
The 2,000 commuters who now spend an hour each day driving from Sunrise Beach to Osage Beach will soon be able to make the trip in 15 minutes.
The reason: a new, $24 million bridge that Community Transport Corp. will build this summer.
3. Data point
Can you illustrate the gist of the story with a startling statistic? If so, try a lead like this, from Visa’s Reading Is Fundamental program, for your web content:
Today, more than 40% of fourth-grade children read below the basic level for their grade.
Show, don’t tell. Illustrate your essential point with an example like this, from an H&R Block survey of kids about taxes:
Most 8- to 11-year-olds would rather go to school year-round than pay a nickel of “allowance tax.” But pit that nickel against Nickelodeon, and they’d gladly fork it over to protect their tube time. They also imagine Batman would pay more income tax than either Superman or Spiderman.
3 types of web leads to avoid
Don’t treat your web content as a news story … but don’t bury the lede, either. Here are three types of leads to avoid:
To draw readers into your web content, write web leads that are concrete, creative and provocative. That means dry, boring, abstract leads like this aren’t a good choice:
In agriculture and the general economy, change can happen fast, and when it does, the ripples are often felt in the value of collateral.
The background section — aka the blah blah — belongs in the third paragraph. So keep definitions, history lessons and other broader context like this out of the opening paragraph:
XYZ Company’s development of ear-blasting technologies began with the introduction of Make It Louder software in 2004. Since then, it has progressed to include three additional generations of ear-blasting technologies that continue to achieve the highest level of sound quality.
3. Welcome text
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, nonessential introductions like this one cause readers to skip your lead:
Welcome to our site. We hope you will find our new and improved design helpful.
Ledes should lead
Whichever lead approach you choose for your web content, make sure it’s concrete, creative and provocative. Make sure your lede leads readers into the story — instead of leading them astray.
Regardless of how you choose to spell it.