Lede | Glossary

Without a strong lede, your content will never be read. But what is a lede, and why does your written content need a catchy lede every time?

What Is a Lede?

In content writing, the lede refers to the opening paragraph or the first line of a piece. It is the first piece of writing after your headline to hook readers.

A lede (not to be confused with a sales or marketing lead) acts as the first crucial building block to retain readers and improve engagement with your content.

Why Is a Strong Lede Important?

After your title, your lede is the first impression you give your readers. It"s a major deciding factor whether someone keeps reading or clicks off your content.

People these days have limited time to dedicate to reading, so they need to know the piece is worth their time. And readers are incredibly particular about what they give their energy to, with 55% of people clicking off content within the first 15 seconds. The lede is your way of signaling to your audience that the piece has value and that they should continue reading.

When it comes to your lede, the first sentence is what takes your readers to the next. Like stepping stones, your reader will find it hard to progress if something is missing. So, if your lede is lackluster and void of value, your readers won’t keep reading. You have to make it as easy as possible to keep reading. You must make your audience want to know more.

Without a strong lede, you do your content a disservice, as your audience won’t read far enough to gain the knowledge within.

Image: Pexels

What Are the Benefits of a Well-written Lede?

A lede can make or break your content. Here’s why you need to put effort into creating the best lede possible.

Make a good first impression
There is a high chance that any article on your platform is the first encounter a reader has with you and your company. And if you haven’t provided immediate value to them, they’re unlikely to give you more of their attention. Just like in real life, first impressions are important. If you can make a good impression, you’ll gain favor with new readers.

Build reader trust
Audiences need to trust you if they"re investing time in your content. If you guard your best points for later in the article, most readers will feel you"re trying to trick them or don’t value their time. For brands who can add value in their first paragraph (or, better yet, their first sentence), readers are more likely to believe the brand is a trustworthy thought leader whose words are worth reading.

With an impactful lede, you can connect emotionally with your audience, creating a personal bond that compels them to keep reading your content. Creating emotional trust in your readers is a sure way to keep them coming back to your content.

Increase your conversions
Most brands use content as a conversion tool to get readers to sign up for an email list, buy a product, comment on blog posts, or otherwise engage. But if readers can’t get past the first paragraph, they’ll never see what you’re offering, no matter how amazing it is.

With a great lede, you create a knock-on effect that makes readers excited to continue reading until they get to your offer, at which point they are far more likely to be invested and take action.

What Are the Key Elements of an Impactful Lede?

There are many ways to create a lede that makes your audience want to keep reading, but all great ledes have a few characteristics in common. Here’s how to make the most of your opening paragraph.

Start with the five “Ws”
If you’re writing a news piece or you’re not sure where to begin, you can’t go wrong with the five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. By answering these five questions in your first paragraph, your audience is clear on what you’re offering and can make an informed decision whether to continue reading.

Don’t bury the lede
You may have heard this phrase before. It means don’t wait until later in your piece to give the juicy details, solve the problem, or tell how the story ends. Most people think that if they give away their biggest point, people won’t want to read on. But the opposite is true. If you immediately give your reader the solution, they’ll want to know why and how it works and how to implement it in their own lives.

Deliver on the promise in your title
If your headline promises the cure for procrastination, give your audience the answer in your lede. If your title says you had a major breakthrough, tell your audience what it was immediately. If your lede doesn’t appear relevant to your headline, audiences will see it as clickbait (even if it’s not). As a result, they’ll immediately click off and be less likely to trust you in the future.

Try using a story or anecdote
While you shouldn’t wait long to give your audience the main points of your piece, you don’t always have to put it in your lede. Sometimes a story or anecdote works just as well to entice readers and keep them hooked.

When an article starts with “He was right, but I was too distracted to see it. If only I’d listened to him sooner,” your audience is likely to be hooked, wanting to find out who he is, what he said, and why you should have listened.

Practice empathy
Your audience wants to know you understand their situation. That you have walked a mile in their shoes and come out on the other side, giving them hope that they can, too.

Emotional connection and empathy are essential for people to continue reading. If you can show your audience you care and see their value, they’re much more likely to read on.

Use shocking statistics as your first line

Statistics are a powerful way to pull your audience in immediately when they"re shocking, which elicits intrigue.

This method should be used sparingly, but if you have a crazy statistic about a topic relevant to your brand, create an article around it!

Know your audience and give them what they want
Over time, you’ll see what works for your audience and what doesn’t. Maybe it’s storytelling, or maybe it’s delivering the solution in the first sentence. Whatever it is, keep doing it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with other lede formats, too, but focus primarily on what works.

Keep Your Audience"s Attention With Expertly Crafted Ledes
At Scripted, you’ll have access to a curated pool of expert copywriters who will help you keep your audience invested in your content. When you’re ready to hook your readers and convert new audiences, sign up for a free Scripted account and schedule a demo.

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