Writing a Soft News Lead
That Hooks the Reader

Writing a strong article lead is challenging. The soft news lead, commonly found in magazine articles, can take multiple forms.

The purpose of any opening sentence or paragraph is to draw the reader in. How do you do that? You tell them something they want to know.

Like hard news, magazine articles have to answer:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?
Unlike hard news, you can open a magazine article with a quote, a description, or even a pun.

Quotation Lead

A popular and effective soft news lead is the quotation lead.

This is only one of the many types of leads news writers use. Quotation leads are just what they sound like. You start the article off with a relevant, striking quote, and follow it with narrative support to draw the reader in. The quote you choose must have a few specific characteristics:

  • Keep it short
  • Don't be afraid of shock value
  • Set the tone of the piece
  • Lead smoothly into the narrative

So, how does this work?

First, know the purpose of your article.

What are you trying to convey to the reader? Does the quote fit with the message? Or does it set up an interesting contrast? If it does neither, it won't work.

Second, is the quote interesting or entertaining?

Make sure it isn't too long. No one wants to read a speech. A good rule is no more than two or three sentences.

Here's an example:

"What's not to love? I have a five minute commute and go to work in my pajamas." He pointed to the his flannel pajama pants. No one looking at him would know this 15-year-old was a millionaire.

Who can you quote to draw readers into your soft news article?

Description Lead

If you don't have a quote to use as the opener for your article, you can begin with a compelling description.

Here, you can tap into your inner novelist or poet, but don't overdo it. 

Here's an example:

With spires seeming to reach the sky, the Cathedral of St. Augustine dominates the town's skyline.

Pun Lead

By far the most fun and the most challenging soft news lead is the pun lead. As writer's it's natural that we want to play with language. Have fun with it. 

If the tone of your article is light, and lends itself to wordplay, a pun lead is a great opener.

The new primate exhibit at the zoo is not monkeying around.

Whichever type of lead you choose, be sure it fits the tone and content of your article. 

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