What’s in a lede?

What’s in a lede?

The most important part of an op-ed is the opening paragraph, commonly referred to as the lede. For readers and editors alike, the lede is what makes them read on. No matter how thought-provoking, your op-ed will be skipped over if the opening sentences don’t capture the reader’s attention.

Here are a few tips to help you develop an eye-catching lede:

* Newsworthy ledes are always best. When possible, start with a recent news hook. Editors are more inclined to use an op-ed that’s tied to a current event because a timely piece is almost always more relevant to readers.

* Sometimes a specific current event or news story just doesn’t work as a lede for a particular op-ed. In such cases, an “evergreen” lede might work. An evergreen lede is one that is pegged to an issue that is constantly in the news, but not necessarily a specific event. So the lede is less time-sensitive. An evergreen lede can work well for an oped about an evergreen topic like healthcare or immigration reform. When writing an evergreen lede, it’s often best to start with a surprising fact or anecdote.

* If you’re writing for a specific audience, then the lede should be relevant to that audience. For example, if your ultimate goal is to place your oped in the Miami Herald, then the lede should include a news story, fact, or anecdote relating to Florida.

Spend time on the lede. Make it interesting. Remember, the goal to get people to keep reading. If your lede seems boring to you, there’s no doubt others will feel the same way.

Elizabeth Scafuro