Picture this: You’re at a buffet and you’re scanning the tables looking for something that looks appetizing. Suddenly, a dish catches your eye and you lean in for a closer look. You take a whiff and like what you smell. Your mouth starts to water, and you reach for a spoon to dig in.
This is the power of a good lead paragraph in written content. It’s the dish that catches your eye, the aroma that draws you in, and the spoon that makes you want to take a bite. A capacious and laconic article lead is a crucial component of any text, but many inexperienced authors make the mistake of replacing it with the first paragraph, thinking it will have the same effect. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In today’s fast-paced world, time is a precious commodity, especially on the internet. The attention span of the average user is shorter than that of a goldfish. That’s right, a goldfish! So, if you want to capture your audience’s attention and keep them engaged, you need to make a good impression in just a few seconds. And that’s where the lead comes in. It’s the first thing your audience sees, and it’s what they use to decide if they want to invest their time in reading the rest of your content. So, if you want your work to be read and appreciated, don’t skip on the lead.
Explanation of the importance of a strong article lead
The opening lines of an article, also known as the article lead, are crucial for engaging readers and drawing them into the content. An article lead is the initial few sentences or paragraphs that provide a summary or preview of what the reader can expect from the rest of the piece. It serves as an invitation to the reader, encouraging them to continue reading. The importance of a strong article lead cannot be overstated. It can mean the difference between a reader scrolling past your content or engaging with it. In this blog post, we’ll explore why a strong article lead is important and how to create one that captures readers’ attention.
What is an article lead?
An article lead is the opening section of an article that serves as an introduction to the content. Its primary function is to provide the reader with a brief overview of what they can expect to find in the rest of the article.
There are several types of article leads that writers can use to capture their audience’s attention. The most common ones include:
- Summary Lead: This type of lead provides a concise overview of the main points or arguments presented in the article. It aims to give the reader a quick understanding of the topic and what the article will cover.
- Anecdotal Lead: This type of lead uses a story or anecdote to introduce the topic. It engages the reader by creating a relatable or emotional connection and often serves to illustrate the main point or argument of the article.
- Descriptive Lead: This type of lead uses vivid and sensory language to create a mental image of the topic. It aims to engage the reader’s senses and capture their attention with a compelling description.
Other types of article leads include question lead, quote lead, and shock lead, among others. The type of lead a writer chooses will depend on the topic, audience, and tone of the article.
Why is a strong article lead important?
A strong article lead is essential for several reasons.
Firstly, it grabs the reader’s attention and piques their interest. In today’s fast-paced digital world, readers have a shorter attention span, and an eye-catching lead is crucial to hooking them into the content.
Secondly, it sets the tone for the rest of the article. It establishes the writer’s voice and style and provides readers with an idea of what to expect from the content. A poorly written lead can confuse the reader and make them lose interest in the article altogether.
Thirdly, a strong article lead provides a roadmap for the reader. It outlines the main points or arguments that will be discussed in the article, helping the reader to understand the article’s structure and organization.
Finally, it helps the reader determine whether they want to read the entire article. A well-written lead will give the reader a clear idea of the article’s topic and purpose, allowing them to decide whether they want to read on or not. This means that a strong lead can help to increase readership and engagement with the article.
Tips for writing a strong lead paragraph
To create a strong article lead, writers should follow these tips:
- Know your audience: It’s important to understand who your target audience is and what they’re interested in. This knowledge can help you craft a lead that speaks directly to them and captures their attention.
- Start with a hook: A hook is a compelling statement or question that grabs the reader’s attention and encourages them to keep reading. It can be a surprising fact, a provocative statement, or a question that resonates with the reader.
- Keep it concise: A good lead should be brief and to the point. Avoid using too many words or getting bogged down in details. Instead, focus on the most important information and keep it simple.
- Don’t give away too much information: While it’s essential to provide a summary of what the article is about, be careful not to reveal too much information in the lead. This can make the article seem redundant and discourage the reader from reading on.
- Use active voice: Writing in the active voice makes the lead more engaging and dynamic. It creates a sense of immediacy and urgency, which can help to hold the reader’s attention.
By following these tips, writers can create strong article leads that captivate readers and encourage them to read on.
What makes these leads strong and effective?
Here are a few examples of strong article leads from popular publications and articles:
- The New York Times – “It was the kind of call no parent ever wants to get: Your child has a life-threatening illness, and we don’t know what’s causing it.”
Analysis: This lead from The New York Times article on a mysterious illness outbreak grabs the reader’s attention immediately with a relatable and emotional statement. It sets the tone for the rest of the article and draws the reader in by creating an emotional connection.
- Forbes – “The pandemic has been a catalyst for change across the board, and the world of work is no exception. Remote work is now the norm, and hybrid models that combine remote and in-person work are becoming increasingly popular.”
Analysis: This lead from a Forbes article about the future of work starts with a bold statement that sets up the article’s main topic. It immediately engages the reader by addressing a relevant and timely issue and sets the tone for the rest of the article.
- Harvard Business Review – “If you’re looking to build a career with long-term growth potential, you may want to consider one of the fastest-growing job categories in the country: data science.”
Analysis: This lead from a Harvard Business Review article on data science immediately grabs the reader’s attention by addressing a topic that is relevant and timely. It also sets the tone for the rest of the article by outlining the article’s main argument.
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First paragraph instead of lead one: 5 reasons why it doesn’t work
Most of the authors do a good job writing headings. But the clickable heading which promises substantial and informative content defines only a number of views. It is the lead that defines the bounce rate and whether your article is worth spending time on. There are a lot of problems but mainly that most often the author does not see a difference between a lead and the first paragraph.
However, the first paragraph and the lead are neither equivalent nor interchangeable. There are at least 5 reasons why articles using the first paragraph as a lead most likely “will not come forward”.
1. The first paragraph does not contain important information
The first paragraph lacks important information. The author may use intricate metaphors and multilevel verbal designs without serious consequences, but the introduction is only the first step towards the subject and may have only a mediated, indirect relation to the rest of the text.
It is impossible to conclude whether the article is important and worth reading based solely on the first paragraph. The lead should provide this information: after reading it for several seconds, the audience should be able to determine whether it is worth reading further.
2. Capturing the Essence: The Importance of the Lead Paragraph Over the First Paragraph
The lead serves as an elevator pitch: in just 10 seconds, it should explain to the reader how important the rest of the text is. This allows the reader to evaluate the text personally and decide whether to invest time in it or to focus on more useful things. On the other hand, the first paragraph serves as small talk: a few minutes spent on creating a feeling of solidarity with the reader and eliciting pleasant emotions. Its purpose is to conciliate the interlocutor, establish mutual understanding, and prepare for further conversation.
The lead “sells the article,” while the first paragraph invites the reader to pour a cup of coffee, wrap themselves in a cozy blanket, and “enjoy the purchase.” Without the lead, the first paragraph is like a pushy salesperson who quickly approaches the potential customer with the question, “Can I show you something?” Irritated, the buyer who lacked just 10 seconds to make a decision responds with a firm “No, thanks, I’m just looking.” They then turn and go to the next shop that offers similar goods.
The first paragraph for lack of a lead – the persuasive seller who is not allowing the buyer to look round.
3. Lead Paragraph vs. First Paragraph: Why the Latter Can’t Afford to Be Voluminous and Empty
The first paragraph serves the purpose of creating the necessary tone and providing suitable context for the main part of the text. Therefore, it can be quite verbose and empty. The lead, on the other hand, cannot afford such luxury: in its case, the quantity of content in each symbol and the audience’s willingness to engage with it are inversely proportional. Ideally, the lead should be equal to the size of a searcher snippet, which ranges from 160 (Google) to 240 symbols (Yandex), and should be displayed in it.
Additionally, the lead should be replicated in the same volume after the heading, as it will be used when the article is shared on social networks, channels, and messengers.
4. Unlocking the Power of Article Lead: Providing Context Where the First Paragraph Falls Short
The first paragraph can dispense with accents and priorities. Unlike a lead which accurately explains why the text is written.
The lead should immediately explain what has occurred. Agatha Christie would undoubtedly be horrified at the idea of turning a detective story upside down. Therefore, if you ever decide to leave the fragile world of internet content and delve into immortal fiction, this article is not for you.
The purpose of a lead is to answer the questions of “Who?”, “What?”, “Where?”, “When?”, “Why?”, and “How?”. Choose the most precise answers that best convey the main idea and be mindful of when it’s time to stop. This moment typically occurs when the useful impact of the available symbols still exceeds the potential risk of losing your audience due to a sudden break in the message.
5. The first paragraph is closely connected with the text and is unclear without the rest
Paradoxically, although the lead must embody the essence of the article, its quality is defined by its lack of structural connection to the main text. A good lead is a self-sufficient unit: even without the rest of the article, it should give a clear idea of the subject, while its absence should not affect the article. On the other hand, unlike the lead, the first paragraph represents an important element of context. Without it, the main part will lose its introduction and create a sense of incompleteness.
Writing the first paragraph, like an introductory chord, is much easier than writing a lead after the article is completed. By this point, you already know what you want to say, the purpose of your text, and the reaction you expect from your readers.
Mastering the Art of the Lead Paragraph
Though the work on a lead paragraph is difficult and requires the ability to write concisely and effectively, its absence can render all the effort put into preparing the article useless. Replacing the lead with the first paragraph often leads to the loss of readers, thus rendering the time and effort spent on writing the article futile.