“Bury the lead” is a very common expression in the journalism world. It means that a writer shouldn’t start an article with information of lesser importance, relegating the key point to later in the story. You should always start with attention-grabbing news and then fill in details. I frequently remind myself of this principle, particularly when writing press releases.
On yesterday’s episode of Jeopardy, that there was an answer about burying the “lede.” In all my years of working with words, I can’t recall ever seeing “lead” spelled “lede.” Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to Google I go.
It appears that at some point in history, “lede” was simply a variant spelling of “lead.” It became almost extinct, before getting a second life in the 1980s. Today it is used specifically in journalism to reference the first sentence or paragraph that contains the featured topic. I can see how, within the confines of that profession, it would be helpful to make a distinction between “lead” and “lede.” Now, can we figure out what to do with “lead” when it rhymes with “led?”
- Grammarist: Lead vs. lede
- The Poynter Institute: Calling the beginning of a story a ‘lede’ is just another form of nostalgia
- William Safire in The New York Times Magazine: On Language; (HED) Folo My Lede (UNHED)
- The Bleacher Report Writers Blog: At the risk of burying the lead, we’re going to spell it lede