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