How to Write a Lead (Followed by a Juicy Nutgraph)
Your lead has to grab the reader’s attention and convince him or her to go on reading your story. To do that, you have to give your opening paragraph life, color, and action.
Remember, however, that any question you raise in the lead, must be answered in the story.
Also, a news lead and feature lead are two different animals. Both have to grab attention, but a feature lead can take longer to do so.
How to start
Know your story. Once you have a good grasp of the facts, think through the point of the story and where you want it to go. What's the most interesting thing about this story? What's the most important point? Think your way through the story before you start writing.
A good lead has to be followed by a good nutgraph. The nutgraph, or billboard, of a story, tells the reader why this story was written. It is the who, what, where, when, how and why that has not already been mentioned in the lead. It lays out the facts, puts the reader at the scene and sets up the telling of the rest of the story.
Many nutgraphs are followed by a quote, or a transition sentence to a quote.
- Have students rewrite the leads for three press releases. You can find press releases at PR Newswire.
- Hand out newspapers or photo copies of news stories and have students circle nutgraphs. They should be looking for the paragraph that gives most of the who, what, where, when and why of a story.