The terms “lede” and “lead” are often used in journalism and other forms of formal writing. Sure, they sound like the same word, but their different spellings give different meanings and even uses. So, let’s take a look at the definitions of lede and lead and how you can add them to your writing!
Is It Bury the Lead or Bury the Lede?
I know some people who spell it as “lede” when writing the figurative phrase, while others spell it “lead.” But which one is correct? The answer might surprise you because both spellings are technically right.
“Lede” is journalism jargon and just the older form of the spelling and is used in the world of journalism today, so people wouldn’t get it confused. But you can use both bury the lede and bury the lead, and you’d be just fine.
The noun “lead” is usually reserved for other contexts, like chemistry, metalworking, and horses. But it’s also a verb when talking about directing someone to a certain location.
- Noun: Lead pipe
- Noun: Horse lead or rope
- Noun: Lead, the chemical element
- Verb: To lead someone
What Is a Lede?
So, in the lovely context of journalism, the noun lede (also sometimes spelled “lead”) is the opening sentence or paragraph of an article that’s made to grab the reader’s attention right off the bat and also give a quick idea of the main point of the story.
The spelling of lede as l-e-d-e helps wipe away any confusion among newsroom workers between it and the word lead when referring to that well-written first sentence.
The lede is super important because it sets the tone for the rest of the article and determines whether readers will continue reading. In the land of fiction writing, where I reside half the time, it’s also called a “hook.”
When Did Lede Become a Word?
The word “lede” has been widely used in journalism since the 1950s, but it’s not a new word. Its origin is actually an older spelling of the word “lead,” which we’ve used in the printing and publishing industry since the 15th century.
The spelling was changed to “lede” at some point to differentiate the opening sentence of a news article from the metal type used in printing so people wouldn’t get confused. If you ask me, they should have used a different word altogether because they’re still homophones and, obviously, still cause mix-ups.
Lede vs. Lead: When to Use Them
As I mentioned earlier, “lede” is mostly used in journalism when you’re talking about the opening sentence of an article or story. But “lead” can refer to a few different things:
- A soft, heavy, gray metal used by metalworkers
- A harmful element that was once used in paints
- The main part of a fishing line
- The advantage in a competition, aka being in the lead in a race
- To guide or direct someone or something
So, just remember that “lede” is used for articles, “lead” can be any of the points above.
Pronouncing Lede and Lead
So, “lede” is simple; it’s just pronounced as lee-d. But the word “lead,” with both noun and verb forms, has two pronunciations. As a verb, it’s lee-d; as a noun, it’s led. Unless you’re talking about an advantage in a game, then it’s pronounced as lee-d.
Lede Examples in a Sentence
- The lede of your article was so attention-grabbing that I had to keep reading.
- I always said a good lede could make or break a news story.
- The journalist spent hours crafting the perfect lede for her article; you should at least give it a read.
- In a Romance novel, we call ledes hooks because they hook the reader’s attention.
- Way to bury the lede on that newspaper story.
Lead Examples in a Sentence
- The fishing line had a lead weight attached to it to keep the line down.
- My son’s team was in the lead for most of the game but ended up losing.
- I was asked to lead the project because of my expertise in the field.
- We had to strip the entire house of all the old lead paint before we could move in.
- Using the lead, she guided the horse back into its stall.
Take the Lead
I know the word “lead” can be a bit confusing with its multiple uses, meanings, and pronunciations. But just refer back to this guide when you find yourself wondering which form to use. The alternate spelling “lede” is really only used in American journalism, so just remember that as a trick to spot the difference.