iHappiness app: now available
SpeechFile:new edition


Click through a few web pages. A word or a phrase jumps out and grabs your attention. You pause for just two or three seconds, then decide to stay or move on. It happens in the blink of an eye. Make sure your reader stays with you by using the lede/nut graf opening technique, advises, the US school of journalism.

Put the most interesting, exciting and relevant idea in the first few lines. You’ll make her want to read more. She’s on the hook. Leave that great idea until the body of the article and you’ve buried your lead, often spelled ‘lede’ in journalism. She’ll never read as far as the nut graf, the second section.

Try writing a great lede as an anecdote, even backing it up with a quotation from a reputable source. Maybe start with a gripping description: “A fetid slime oozed from the gangrenous leg.” Above all, avoid boring your reader with dull ledes, of the “My cat has some interesting habits” variety.

Keep the language in your lede active, by using verbs that move the reader. Verbs tell the story dynamically. “You click through,” is so much more interesting than “you read a page and use your mouse to move on to the next.” It’s shorter, snappier and onomatopoeic: that means it sounds like the thing it describes so you immediately build a picture of it in your mind.

Ask no questions in your first lines: your reader wants answers from you. She can make up her own questions. Don't take her mind away from the news you want to share.

Once you’ve hooked her, move on to the nut graf. This is the kernel of the story. Make it so much more than just a link into the rest of the article. Move the focus wider than the opening surprise. It’s your opportunity to tell her why your story is important, relevant to her and something she just can’t resist reading. Maybe she’ll make money if she reads on, or find a joke to share over the water-cooler. Keep the nut graf short, and show her why she should care enough to spend more time with you.

Don’t over burden the first two or three paragraphs with information. Too many facts and figures make most of us glaze over and move on. Use the body of the article to explain your hard information, a little at a time. If she’s enjoyed the lede and the nut graf, she’s likely to stay with you to the end.

If you’ve found this interesting enough to read to the end, many thanks. For more information on how to write better, maybe you’d like to take a peek at the Writelink ebooks.