Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feature Leads vs. Summary Leads: Same Purpose, Different Goal

The purpose of feature leads is to entice you (the reader) into wanting to read the story by providing a vivid picture or creative insight to what a story is about without giving everything away. The summary lead sets the stage for what the story is about as an overview presenting the 5W's and H, however summary leads used on feature stories do not try to pack the 5w's and an H, but gives the reader just enough information before going on to read the story. Feature leads avoid trying to cram TONS of facts, writers of feature leads want to "wet the whistle" of the reader to encourage them to go on and read more. In the case of summary leads, there are four tips that can help you accomplish writing a successful lead. First, Be as specific as possible. You want to make sure that your summary lead reveals the most interesting or important aspect of the story or the BAM!!! Next, you want to avoid backing in. This refers to placing an introductory clause or phrase before the subject, make your sentence STRONG!!! Third, Be Concise. Avoid trying to cram a lot of information into a sentence that should only be no more than 30 words. Finally, Use Active Voice. By using active voice, it increases the odds that you will grab readers' attention.

In the Living Green section of the Baltimore Sun's website, I found an example of a feature lead. The article is entitled College turn french fry oil into fuel and reads as follows: Dayton, Ohio - "Forgive the students at Sinclair Community College if they get the munchies when they pass the tractors that cut grass, blow leaves or sweep snow on campus: Oil that once cooked french fries and onion rings is being used to power the vehicles."

Another example of a feature lead comes from the Books section of the New Times website, This article is entitled A Lifetime's Collection in Hebrew, at Sotheby's which opening paragraph says, "Is bibliophilia a religious impulse? You can't walk into Sotheby's exhibtion space in Manhattan right now and not sense the devotion or be swept up in its passions and particularities. The 2,400 square foot opening gallery is lined with shelves - 10 high - reaching to the ceiling, not packed tight, but with occational books open to view. Each shelf is labeled, not with a subject, but with a city of town of origin: Amsterdam, Paris, Leiden, Izmir, Bombay, Cochin, Cremona, Jerusalem, Ferrera, Calcutta, Mantua, Shanghai, Alexandria, Baghdad and on and on.

1 comment:

jatwater said...

Good lead choices. I like the photo that goes with your post.