How To Write A Summary Lead
The summary lead is the most traditional form of lead in news writing. Frequently employed for breaking news, it adopts a “just the facts” approach that quickly gives a rundown of the six basic information that matters in a news story (i.e. who, what, where, when, why, how), mapping its nuts and bolts in a brief manner.
For the purposes of brevity, some summary leads merely include the “who, what, when and where,” with the rest filled in later in the story. That can work, too, although it usually best serves its purpose with the full basic information thrown in.
Writing summary leads, however, run you one ever-present risk: being focused on a recitation of facts, your lead can sound very stale. To avoid that, here are a couple of things you can do:
- Start with a hook. Pick the most interesting detail of the story and use it to hook the reader into your lead.
- Find a way to relate the facts to the reader. Rather than merely rattling off the five W’s and one H, find an angle to relate it to the reader. That will help personalize the lead, making erstwhile cold facts just a little more interesting.
- Give more focus to the “why” and “how.” The answers to both of those questions tend to be more evaluative and analytical than the other four W’s. As such, they also tend to drum up just a little more interest.