Trivia 085: Start digging

Long time readers of my trivia, if there are any, will know that I usually don’t jump into the main point of my post right away. I like to begin with a bit of a story, and create a narrative around the post. This is the way I like to teach and present, so it comes naturally to me. Of course, this is not very good journalistic practice (that’s news journalism, not diary journalism). In college, I spent a summer working for our student newspaper. Although my time there was short, I learned about the process of creating a newspaper article, and had four of mine published.

The biggest lesson I learned (and one that I struggled with back then too) was how to begin an article. When you’re writing a piece for a newspaper, magazine, website, or other form of short media, you need to begin with a hook. You want to grab the reader’s attention right away and ensure that they want to read your article. Therefore it’s important to get to the point quickly, and not hide it away, not revealing it until they are halfway through.

Of course, this is a rule which I very much break all the time in these posts. I’m even doing it right now! But, in this case, that’s the point of this post. I’m giving you a perfect example of today’s trivia. After all, this journalistic rule has created a bit of jargon which has found its way into everyday life – many of you have probably heard it before. Here I am, burying the lede (rhymes with “deed”).

According to,

Bury the lede is an expression that means to fail to mention the most important or interesting part of a story or anecdote right at the beginning, and instead insert it at some other point in the telling, as if it weren’t that important.

For example, if someone is telling a story about how they rented a house, and throws “and then I was bitten by a shark” in passing, you might accuse them of burying the lede. You got bitten by a shark?! That’s way more interesting than renting a house.

This is considered bad practice in journalism because the reader wants to know what they are in for right at the start. The introductory paragraph, or lede, is therefore perhaps the most crucial part of the article. It should answer the 5 W’s – Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How). If the reader is sufficiently interested, they will continue to read the rest of the article. They do not want to see an article with a headline “Fistfight breaks out at City Hall meeting”, then not get the details of the fistfight until five paragraphs in. This is especially important in the modern age, when attention spans are short and media abounds.

I wouldn’t be surprised if most of my readers have heard this phrase before, though many of you likely did not know its origins. It is a phrase whose meaning is pretty easy to intuit, even if you did not know it before. By the way, the spelling of lede is usually only done in journalist circles, to differentiate it from “lead”, which used to be important in typesetting instructions.

Anyways, even though I know that the way I write is not ideal for a newspaper, this is the way I like to teach, so I’m sticking with it. Join me next week when I may, or may not, jump the shark.

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