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Writing a Good Lead. English. What is a Lead ( Lede )?. A lead or lede (as it is sometimes referred to in journalism) is an attention grabbing opening to an introduction in an essay. It sometimes is only mildly related to the thesis.

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What is a lead lede
What is a Lead (Lede)?

  • A lead or lede (as it is sometimes referred to in journalism) is an attention grabbing opening to an introduction in an essay.

  • It sometimes is only mildly related to the thesis.

  • There are many different types of leads, and each one has its strengths and weakensses.


Example introduction
Example Introduction

  • Brrrrrrring! The alarm clock sounds in my ear. I grab the clock and throw it against the wall, and let out a loud groan. Another Monday morning has arrived, and I never opened a book all weekend. What if Mr. Johnson gives another one of his diabolical pop tests today? Suddenly I feel too sick to eat breakfast. My poor study habits are giving me nervous indigestion, ruining my self-confidence, and destroying my hopes for a college scholarship.


This is the lead
This is the lead:

  • Brrrrrrring! The alarm clock sounds in my ear. I grab the clock and throw it against the wall, and let out a loud groan. Another Monday morning has arrived, and I never opened a book all weekend. What if Mr. Johnson gives another one of his diabolical pop tests today? Suddenly I feel too sick to eat breakfast. My poor study habits are giving me nervous indigestion, ruining my self-confidence, and destroying my hopes for a college scholarship.


What does a lead do
What does a Lead Do?

  • It grabs the reader’s attention.

  • It gives you something to kickstart your paper without having to be so serious right off the bat.

  • It eases the reader into understanding your thesis.

  • It focuses your awareness of audience.


What kinds of leads are there
What kinds of Leads are there?

  • Question

    • Open with an interesting question that relates to the main idea.

      • Example: Have you ever wondered how you would survive if you found yourself alone in the wilderness? How would you defend yourself against predators? What would you eat? Where would you find water?

  • Riddle

    • Open with a riddle that the reader can solve by reading further. You may want to give the answer right away or save it for the conclusion.

      • Example: What textbook has no pages, is miles wide, and smells like a creek? It's been around for millions of years. That's right--Outdoor School.


What kinds of leads are there1
What kinds of Leads are there?

  • Bold and Challenging Statement

    • A bold and challenging statement is similar to an announcement, but is meant to cause some people to disagree with what you say. It's like one side of an argument. It can be an opinion, but don't immediately state that it is your opinion.

      • Example: Using horses and cattle in the sport of rodeo is animal abuse. What makes it more aggravating is that it is legal. According to the law, there is nothing wrong with chasing an animal down, tightening a rope around its neck, knocking it to the ground, and tying its legs together so it cannot move.


What kinds of leads are there2
What kinds of Leads are there?

  • Definition

    • Open with a definition of the term you are discussing. It can be your own or come from a dictionary or textbook. If you take it from a dictionary or textbook, be sure to use quotation marks and give credit to the source.

      • Example: According to Webster's Dictionary, a government is the authority that serves the people and acts on their behalf. How can the government know what the people want if the people do not vote? If we do not vote, the government may act on its own behalf instead of on the behalf of the people.

  • Opinion

    • Open with your opinion about the topic. This is similar to a bold and challenging statement, but you let the reader know that it is your opinion right away. This method can be risky.

      • Example: In my opinion, the driving age should be lowered to fourteen. Most teenagers are more responsible than adults give us credit for being. Just because we are teenagers does not mean we are irresponsible and dangerous.


What kinds of leads are there3
What kinds of Leads are there?

  • Well Known Quotation or Quotation from a Famous Person

    • Open with a quotation that is well known or from a famous person. Be sure to put quotation marks around the quotation and give credit to the person who said it. Of course, the quotation must be directly related to your topic. A good source is a book of quotations or the Internet. Look in the library or ask your teacher.

      • Example: President John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." I think today's Americans have forgotten Kennedy's message. We expect our country to take care of us, but we are not taking care of our country.

  • Quotation Not from a Famous Person

    • Open with a quotation from a person that is not famous. It could be a character from the story or someone you know personally. You still must put it in quotation marks and give credit to the person who said it.

      • Example: When I was a child, I was given the "mother's curse" by my mom. Oh, it is not anything mean or evil. She just said, "When you have children, they will act just like you." I laughed. Well, now that I have children of my own, I am not laughing anymore. The "mother's curse" really works!


What kinds of leads are there4
What kinds of Leads are there?

  • Personal Experience

    • Open with something that has happened to you, or a personal experience. It could be a part of the story, or it could be something that is not a part of what you are writing about but still relates to the topic.

      • Example: Although I did later in my room, I never cried at my grandfather's funeral. I guess that is why I felt so sad for the little girl standing next to her grandma's coffin. She looked so lost and afraid.

  • Figurative Language

    • Begin with a simile (comparison using like or as), metaphor (comparison saying one thing is another thing), personification (giving something nonhuman human qualities), or hyperbole (exaggeration.) The figurative language must relate directly to your topic.

      • Example: The pencil sharpener was always hungry. It ate my pencil every time I went to sharpen it. It never seemed to do this to anyone's pencil but mine. What was so special about my pencils?


What kinds of leads are there5
What Kinds of Leads are there?

  • Anecdote

    • An anecdote is a brief story that ties into the main topic of your essay. It may not be entirely clear at first how it relates to your topic, but it should be short, easy to follow, and poignant.

      • Example: Johnny was out taking a walk in his neighborhood on an ordinary Tuesday evening. As he rounded the corner, he spotted an elderly woman struggling to carry home her groceries. Johnny didn’t know her, he had never seen her before in his life, but he offered to help her carry the package home. Johnny’s random act of kindness didn’t cost him anything but time, but it made a significant difference in that woman’s life.


What kinds of leads are there6
What Kinds of Leads are there?

  • Allusion

    • An allusion is a reference to something in history, religion, pop-culture, or literature that most of an essay’s audience will be familiar with.

      • Example: Everyone has their nemesis. Frodo had Gollum. Harry had Voldemort. Luke had Darth Vader. Your nemesis may be procrastination, apathy, or a bully at school.


What kinds of leads are there7
What kinds of Leads are there?

  • Surrounding your Thesis Statement

    • Begin with a general statement containing three or so ideas about your topic. The information given in the lead is general, not specific, but comes both before and after your thesis statement in order to ease the reader into the body of your piece.

      • Example: There are many characteristics that a good teacher possesses. However, the three most important characteristics include being a good listener, being knowledgeable about the subject, and having a kind heart. All of the teachers who positively influenced me had all three of those characteristics in common.


What to remember
What to Remember

  • Just remember that Leads are supposed to be fun and interesting. The thesis is the business end of the introduction.

  • So, enjoy writing your leads. Be creative! And always remember to keep your audience in mind.

  • Good luck!


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