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A lead, or lede, paragraph in literature is the opening paragraph of an article, essay, news story or book chapter. Often called the lead, it usually occurs together with the headline or title. It precedes the main body of the article, and it gives the reader the main idea of the story. In both spellings, the word rhymes with the word need.
In the journalism industry, particularly in the United States (see News style), the term is spelled "lede". The alternative spelling was invented to differentiate it from the metal lead (pronounced led), which was used in hot metal typesetting. This spelling is absent from almost all print dictionaries, though it has recently begun to appear in some online US dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster.com (though not in any of their print versions) and TheFreeDictionary.com.
In journalism, the lede paragraph should not be confused with the standfirst (UK), rider, kicker, bank head(line), or subhead (US). These terms refer to an introductory or summary line or brief paragraph, located immediately above or below the headline, and typographically distinct from the body of the article.
Journalistic ledes emphasize grabbing the attention of the reader. In journalism, the failure to mention the most important, interesting or attention-grabbing elements of a story in the first paragraph is sometimes called burying the lede, which is discouraged with the catch phrase "Don't bury the lede". Most standard news ledes include brief answers to the questions of who, what, why, when, where, and how the key event in the story took place.
Leads in essays summarize the outline of the argument and conclusion that follows in the main body of the essay. Encyclopedia leads tend to define the subject matter as well as emphasize the interesting points of the article. Features and general articles in magazines tend to be somewhere between journalistic and encyclopedian in style and often lack a distinct lead paragraph entirely. Leads or introductions in books vary enormously in length, intent and content.
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