Writing strong leads: How to hook the reader

Writing strong leads: How to hook the reader(What follows is an excerpt from material presented in the Journalism for Freelance Writers class.)

Do you read every article in a newspaper or magazine you happen to pick up? Probably not. If you’re like most readers, you focus on the articles that hook you and pull you in.

In journalism, the term “lead” refers to the opening of an article. Also called the “hook,” or “grabber,” the lead is in many ways the most important part of an article. It also can be the most difficult to write because it requires the reporter to summarize the content of the article in a way that conveys its tone while enticing the reader.

Leads come in various types, including anecdotal leads, which include a story to illustrate a point, and delayed-suspense leads, which withhold information until later. Whatever the type, effective leads have three traits in common: brevity, clarity and relevancy.

Finding the lead can be the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of writing an article but once nailed down it makes writing the article simpler. In that sense, the lead functions like an outline. Once you determine the opening, the article falls into place.

Journalism for Freelance Writers

Dates: Saturdays, Sept. 27-Dec. 6, 2014. No class Nov. 29.

Time: 2-4 p.m.

Cost: $200/10 weeks

Limited to 5 students

Location: Hollywood district of Northeast Portland, Oregon. Exact location provided upon registration.

Learn the skills professional reporters use to write features, human-interest articles and small-business profiles. Become the freelance writer every editor wants to work with. Learn the dos and don’ts of the publishing world. By the end of the class you’ll have completed one feature article that is 650-800 words in length. Along the way, you’ll learn how to:

  • Find article ideas
  • Carry out research
  • Prepare for and conduct interviews
  • Write leads
  • Organize, draft, revise and polish articles
  • Handle quotes and attributions
  • Meet deadlines and word counts
  • Copyedit and fact check
  • Write headlines, captions and photo credits
  • Apply AP and Chicago style
  • Take photos
  • Work with editors
  • Follow journalist ethics and values
  • Fulfill journalistic responsibilities

To register: Mail payment to Nancy Woods, P.O. Box 18032, Portland, OR 97218. To pay by credit card call (503) 288-2469.For more information: wordpics@aracnet.com or (503) 288-2469.

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