Denny’s Daily Zinger: Can You Make Sense of This Lede?

Click to enlarge this photo of Wheeler.

Top Court Won’t Ease Patent-Suit Threshold
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.

Denny Hatch’s new book is “Write Everything Right!” Charles Gaudet writes, “Once again, Denny Hatch provides us with sage and proven advice from the trenches. The book is chock-full of examples, takeaways, and strategies for making every word more compelling and persuasive. This is easily one of those ‘top-shelf’ books you’ll reference time and time again.” Click here to download (opens as a PDF) and read the first three chapters FREE. The title is also available on Kindle. Reach him at dennyhatch@yahoo.com.

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