Denny's Daily Zinger: Can You Make Sense of This Lede?June 12, 2014 By Denny Hatch
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to make it easier to hold companies liable for encouraging others to commit patent infringement, in its latest rejection of a decision by a specialized court that hears appeals in the nation's patent cases. —Brent Kendall, The Wall Street Journal.
I read the above 41-word lede sentence six times and was flummoxed.
Elmer "Sizzle" Wheeler (1903-1968)—writer of myriad books on salesmanship—acquired his moniker by saying, "You don't sell steak; you sell the sizzle."
Wheeler was also responsible for a dictum that should be hard-wired into the brain of every writer in the world:
Your first 10 words are more important than the next 10,000.
The online version of the story had the following lede:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to make it easier to hold companies liable for encouraging others to commit patent infringement.
I emailed the reporter about the disparity. Brent Kendall replied:
Thanks for the note. I just checked and the ledes on both the print version and the online version are the same. The shorter lede was on the story that initially ran online yesterday. I wrote a more detailed version of the story later in the day that ran in print and replaced the early online version.
Takeaways to Consider
- A sentence longer than 29 words is extremely difficult to comprehend.
- Your first 10 words are more important than the next 10,000.