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Sticky Leads

The first twenty-five words of your article are the most important. If they're not powerful and "sticky", readers will not stop and invest the time to find out what your article is about.

Some writers write and rewrite their leads numerous times, changing a word here, adding a word there.I've heard of writers reworking the lead up to twenty times, until it is the best possible. Are leads that important? Absolutely!

Most people flick through a magazine first and then decide what to read. Your lead is the advertisement, a signpost telling readers what to expect.If readers like the lead, they will invest the time to keep reading. Your lead, known as "the hook", worked.

Editors and Leads

Editors have a built in detector for excellent leads. Anything that doesn't hook the editor won't be accepted. Your article may have a great topic, be well written, contain terrific research, include usable tips and ideas... but, sadly the lead let you down and your article was rejected.

Writing a Sticky Lead What makes a lead "sticky"?

  • An Invitation -- Come in and read my article, there's lots of information, inspiration and entertainment.
  • Being Direct -- A sticky lead is concise, direct and appealing. It doesn't ramble, or promise the impossible.
  • It Fits -- Your sticky lead is an introduction to your article and should be appropriate for the following material. Some people have written great leads but they didn't have much to do with the rest of the article. Readers really hate that, so please don't do it.
  • It's Natural -- Readers can tell if your sticky lead is forced, the flow is not good and you are not writing in a style that suits you. Readers are perceptive and much more knowledgeable than we sometimes give them credit for.
  • Example of What Works and What Doesn't

    This is an article about moving house.

    "One day we were driving along a nice country lane, enjoying the countryside. The weather was ideal, warm with blue skies and not much cloud.

    We had chosen this day to look at a new suburb because we had considered moving. The suburb was two hours drive from where we were living and we wondered what attractions it had to make us want to relocate." (65 words)

    This is a pretty sleepy lead. It rambles and doesn't have a hook.

    Take a look at this lead for the same article.

    "Two hours drive south of Big City is New Town. Jobs are plentiful. Homes range from bungalows to multi-level spacious accommodation. New Town is on the banks of Lake Special. The air is clean -- All the ingredients for a great lifestyle.Here's what to look for when you're thinking of moving." (52 words)

    The second version sets the scene and tells readers what to look for when considering a move. You are giving information, inspiration and entertainment.

    • Information -- Where the place is and what are the immediate impressions.
    • Inspiration -- All the ingredients for a great lifestyle.
    • Entertainment -- Even if you're not thinking of moving this might be a great place to visit.
    Think carefully about the lead when you start your next article.

    Barb Clews is an award winning journalist with nearly 1,000 published articles to her credit. She has been a writer and editor for 15 years and is the author of "Article Writing for Freelancers" and "20 Tips to Increase Writing Skills" Visit to subscribe to "Words that Work", Barb's monthly ezine packed with tips for writers.

    In The News:

    NASA launched a spacecraft Tuesday night on a mission to smash into an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to knock a space rock off course if one were to threaten Earth. The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
    The federal government is embarking on a new attempt to explain the unexplainable.
    NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the world's first planetary defense test mission, is scheduled to launch early Wednesday morning.
    The historic November 2021 partial lunar eclipse stunned viewers around the world on Thursday night.
    A partial lunar eclipse will take place on Thursday night and into early Friday.
    A prosthetic-tailed dolphin named Winter that starred in the "Dolphin Tale" movies died Thursday evening at a Florida aquarium despite life-saving efforts to treat a gastrointestinal abnormality, aquarium officials said.
    Four astronauts returned to Earth on Monday, riding home with SpaceX to end a 200-day space station mission that began last spring.
    If you don’t want to believe tech companies at face value, take your privacy into your own hands
    A U.S. survey of astronomers puts the search for extraterrestrial life at the top of their to-do list for the next 10 years.
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Hubble Space Telescope is in safe mode yet again.
    Climate change may impact the production of corn (maize) and wheat as early as 2030, according to NASA researchers.
    Humans introduced a new life form to outer space on Friday as NASA astronauts harvested the first ever chile peppers onboard the International Space Station.
    The Northern Lights may be visible just in time for Halloween.
    On Thursday, the sun released a significant solar flare toward Earth, peaking at 11:35 a.m. EDT, scientists say.
    A good cleaning goes well beyond just the screen. If that’s all you’re focused on, you’re making an expensive mistake that could take years off your TV’s life.
    The scale presented contains seven levels that NASA said are "reflective of the winding, complicated staircase of steps that would lead to scientists declaring they’ve found life beyond Earth."
    The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance announced Thursday that two female critically endangered California condors had successfully hatched eggs without the help of male condors.
    NASA is now targeting February 2022 for the launch of its powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
    The U.S. military launched three suborbital rockets this week from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
    As cooler temperatures move over the eastern U.S., the West is forecast to see heavy rain and mountain snow, including what's known as a "bomb cyclone" near the Northwest.

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