A lede is the most newsworthy part of a news story. Journalists are taught to keep it front and center: a story should lead with the lede. A writer “buries the lede” when the newsworthy part of a story fails to appear at the beginning, where it’s expected. Say, for example, that two people die in a house fire. The lede is buried if the reporting mentions the location, time, or cause of the fire before the deaths.
The idea of leading with a lede can be extended to types of writing other than journalism. Putting your main point at the end of a long sentence asks readers to hold on to the other ideas in the sentence until they reach the lede. If you habitually bury the lede in your sentences, you may eventually test the patience of your readers. Here’s one example of a buried lede:
Known for her unmatched skills as a hostess—after all, she had been a debutante who became a socialite whose husband sat on the boards of half a dozen of the city’s most prestigious cultural organizations—Mary felt right at home discussing her plan for the summer fund-raising luncheon with the museum director.
The main subject, “Mary,” is hinted at with “her” in the first clause, but readers don’t connect Mary’s hostessing prowess to the museum’s fund-raiser until reaching the end of the sentence. Take a look at what happens when we lead with Mary and the fund-raiser:
Mary felt right at home discussing her plan for the summer fund-raising luncheon with the museum director; after all, as a debutante who became a socialite whose husband sat on the boards of half a dozen of the city’s most prestigious cultural organizations, she was known for her unmatched skills as a hostess.
Mary and the fund-raiser are introduced first, and Mary’s social qualifications follow to contextualize her role with the museum and its fund-raiser.
You don’t have to slavishly avoid burying the lede. Variety in your sentences keeps you and your readers from becoming bored. And sometimes you may want to bury the lede for a rhetorical effect. In this example, the lede is dramatically delayed until the end of the sentence:
To her chagrin, Mary realized her worst nightmare coming to pass: after she had spent months drawing up lists, meeting with caterers, choosing stationery and flowers, calling donors, and planning the most elaborate garden cocktail party the museum had ever imagined, the forecast called for rain.
So be on the lookout for buried ledes, especially in long sentences.
JoAnn Ybarra 11 September 2018 AT 09:09 AM
I really appreciate sites like this one because it helps me understand the world and people so much better. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Peter Brooks 15 October 2018 AT 09:10 AM
This is a mondegreen.
It is the 'lead story' that is hidden, there's no such thing as a 'lede' in this sense.
Michele VK 12 June 2019 AT 03:06 PM
Nope. Just jargon. And kind of a tradition.
Rick Cunningham 19 March 2023 AT 08:03 AM
Lede was a misspelling purposely introduced by journalists to differentiate it from the lead type - while confusion is no longer an issue, “bury the lede” remains a tradition with journalists.
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