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16054285234 578f726a22 Welcome New Users: Do I Want to Read Your Diary? (Don't Bury Your Lede)

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Journalists call the key idea in a story, or a sentence summarizing it, the lede. Not putting the lede up front, or worse still, putting it where the reader will have trouble finding it at all, is called “burying the lede”. Not burying the lede is part of the Prime Directive of journalists, coming only after “Always get the story”.

Marketers and advertising copy writers call this the hook. English teachers talk about the topic sentence. On the Interwebz it can be just “Made you look!” Whatever you call it, to satisfy your purposes the rest of us need to see it without clicking.

Most Diaries do that, but too many dKos Diaries start with generic titles and boiler plate text, or with a generic howl of rage that doesn’t tell us what occasioned it. Some Diaries fail to provide rollover text at all, because they start with an image or video. Sometimes all the prospective reader sees is a caption meant to go with the image or video, where the caption is meaningless out of context. In such cases, the automatic link generation in the dKos publishing software isn’t smart enough to skip the image or video link and any title, and quote the actual Diary text that follows. Front Pagers can get away with that, because you get to see several paragraphs from their stories before you click through. But Diarists need to put two lines of text first.

The dKos software puts 160 characters of text into the rollover for Diary links. That is just a bit longer than a Twitter tweet, which is limited to 140 characters. If you can squeeze your lede into a title plus a tweet, you’re good to go for the start of your Diary.

Many writers write the title and lede last, after they know what the rest of the piece actually says. You might start with one idea, and find another taking over. You might start with a particular source, and find better or more up-to-the-minute sources. Newspapers have separate headline writers who get the finished copy from the writers and editors, and also have some idea of how much space they are allowed for the headline. We don’t have that problem, but the idea remains.

Even if you write a lede before anything else, or at any other time in the process, check it when the body of the Diary is done, right before you click Publish. Does it say what you want? Does it include both the key facts and the reason to read further? Can you tighten it up without losing any meaning, and make room for something more?

At this point, I can do no better than to quote the immortal Elements of Style by Strunk & White, or more precisely how Strunk expressed himself in the classroom, as E. B. White reported.

Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!

In the days when I was sitting in his class, he omitted so many needless words, and omitted them so forcibly and with such eagerness and obvious relish, that he often seemed in the position of having shortchanged himself—a man left with nothing more to say yet with time to fill, a radio prophet who had outdistanced the clock. Will Strunk got out of this predicament by a simple trick: he uttered every sentence three times.

Much of The Elements of Style is about identifying needless words, and how to write more compactly, more clearly, and more forcefully. That is always what you want, but never more so than when composing your lede.

Two more things.

Almost any lede can be improved with a link to your source for the idea (best), or event (fine), or person (If it’s a person with no idea or event, why do we care?) concerned. Well, we can talk about which links are most useful another time. If you don’t know how to use the link button below the edit window yet, try it, or read the tutorial on it in the Knowledge Base, accessed via the Help link. (Hmm, a Diary about navigating the dKos user interface wouldn’t come amiss, either.)

Sometimes following with a picture or video is just the thing. We can talk another time about how to find, select, and embed those, too. OK, I just volunteered to write three more Welcome New Users Diaries. I’m glad I enjoy this kind of thing. Otherwise, I would be like the man who hated spinach, and was glad. When they asked him why he was glad he hated spinach, he replied,

Well, if I liked spinach, I would eat it, and it’s terrible!

Pretty much sums up Republicans, doesn’t it? But that, too, is a different Diary.

Helpful Ledes

It’s easier for Front Pagers. They get to give us a few paragraphs to start off, not just two lines of rollover text.

Texas Board of Education to be headed by a homeschooler, by Laura Clawson

The Texas Board of Education creates “policies and standards for Texas public schools.” Gov. Greg Abbott’s choice to head this body setting policies and standards for Texas public schools is a woman whose own children never attended those public schools—they were homeschooled and then sent to a private high school. But hey, she’s a former aide to the state’s Republican lieutenant governor.

That first paragraph is not as condensed as the opening of a Diary would need to be. So in a Diary I would start off with the zinger at the end, and put the background after:

Texas Board of Education to be headed by a homeschooler

and former aide to the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, chosen by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Charleston mayor on Mike Huckabee’s Charleston comments: ‘ridiculous’, ‘nutty’, ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, by Hunter

Mike Huckabee was among the first “serious” Republicans to opine that well golly, if only the black Americans in that Charleston church had been packing heat during their Bible study then maybe they wouldn’t have gotten murdered.

Yes, that says it all. You can read the details, or continue on past, knowing that you got the essence of the story.

There are lots of Diaries with strong ledes. Here is one that caught my eye just now.

Apple loses ebook appeal. eBook buyers could reap $ 400 million

In what feels like ancient history, in March of 2013, I wrote about the anti-trust suit that had been filed against Apple and five of the (at the time) big six publishers by the Department of…

The event, its consequences, and what it might mean to you. Clear?

We don’t need an accumulation of examples of doing it right, because they are all right in much the same way. Run your mouse cursor down the Diaries list in another tab or window, and see which ones work for you, and which don’t. I’ll wait.

Now let’s look at some things that can go wrong, and some correctives.

Missing Ledes

Right-Wing Insanity To The Extreme

I’ve seen a lot of stories here on Daily Kos and on other alternate news sites. From the recent ruling on Obergefell vs. Hodges to the defending of the lone-wolf terrorist in Charleston, it leads me…

Yes, we know that they are crazy, and we delight in sharing new instances. That title, and what the author has been reading, tell us precisely nothing new. The author goes on to talk about the interrelation between income inequality, the Republican Southern Strategy, racism, and voter suppression. Put it up top. You can tell us how you found out about it all later on.

Whistling Past Marcel’s at Midnight

Just to catch a whiff of some damn fine cuisine as we wait for the other shoe to drop and maybe catch a whiff of what the Ubers and Filthys* are up to.

We’re up late Jibbering our Jabber about…

Devotees of Marcel’s and Netroots Radio may not need a lede to know that this is their place. But how would anybody else know that this is where to find detailed instructions for listening to Netroots Radio through various Web interfaces?

The topics of the day,

South Carolina, SCOTUS, Flag, Hillary, Elections and assorted Teathuggery

precisely and exactly miss the rollover cut at the previous word. Less jibber-jabber about jibber-jabbering, more lede, please.

fast track passes and symbolically the rig count increases for the 1st time this year…

a brief synopsis of the congressional trade votes and their implications, and of this week’s data from the oil patch…

It’s OK to use some capitals. This lede is clear on fast track, but what rig count is this? At first glance, I thought of rigged voting in Congress, but no. Looking down several paragraphs, I see that the first line could be greatly improved with just three more words and a capital letter A.

A brief synopsis of the congressional trade votes and their implications, and of this week’s data on drilling rigs…

The connection between these two topics, also buried well down in the Diary, is that TPP is meant to greatly increase oil and gas exports, which leads to increased drilling.

The White Elephant in the Room

A striking portmanteau phrase, combining two ideas, that made me want to know what it was about. But it doesn’t tell me anything. Nor does the rollover text.

I posted this over at my personal site; perhaps some few will find it of value.

That is the entire rollover text for this Diary because that is all that appears above the jump, the Orange Omnilepticon, the flag of the Great Orange Satan, or whatever else inventive Diarists may call it. The real lede is buried below the jump. All that is needed is to move this sentence up above and make it the first paragraph.

What is “whiteness”? Specifically, what is “whiteness” in America?

Yes, indeed, you are talking to me. There is even room for the first sentence of the explanation.

DKos Sangha – Weekly Open Thread

Good morning!  Welcome to the DKos Sangha weekly open thread.

This is an open thread for members of the DKos Sangha and others who are interested in discussions concerning how we integrate our…

This unvarying title and boilerplate text does almost nothing to invite the new reader in.

How about pulling out some bits of the text that follows?

DKos Sangha – Weekly Open Thread – Body/Mind/Heart

This unique expression, one of billions, of what it is to be human, here on this earth, has journeyed through a lifetime to come to this moment.  And the invitation is to move deeper still.

A bit more along that line could follow, with the boilerplate after.

Feel free to quote your favorite or least favorite dKos ledes below. Feel free also to ask how to compose a lede for a Diary you have in mind to write, or anything else relevant.

6577396553 8a140da135 m Welcome New Users: Do I Want to Read Your Diary? (Don't Bury Your Lede)Please also check out the buddy system over at the New Diarists group. While WNU and New Diarists do quite a bit of cross-pollinating, there is one essential difference between us: Over at New Diarists you can request a volunteer mentor who will help with revising and publishing one diary (usually your first) so that you won’t get publicly consigned to Worst Diary Hell at the GOS (Great Orange Satan, as we are affectionately known among wingnuts). Just send them a kosmail asking for an invite! Also check out their Resource Diaries. Note: The New Diarists groups also welcomes experienced diarists who would like to be mentors.

14965862910 84edfc71e9 m Welcome New Users: Do I Want to Read Your Diary? (Don't Bury Your Lede)

Got questions? Comments? Ideas? We’re all ears– just join us in the comments. And remember: Since this diary is for New Users no question is too basic, no matter how long you’ve been here!

For More Helpful Diaries, Check Out Our Archives:

Everyone is encouraged to review some of the previously written goodness that survives here in the DKos archives, going back to WNU founder ek hornbeck and including the list of teaching diaries republished to our Group page.