Lead vs. lede: Does it even matter?


Journalism isn’t always this trivial—or shouldn’t be—but renewed debate
among editors and writers on which spelling of the word is correct is a
reminder of what’s most important.

By Kevin J. Allen | Posted: May 24, 2013

Are you ready for a nerdy journalism debate? I sure hope so. What’s the proper spelling: lead or lede?

Credit the great Romenesko (via Bleacher Report)
for rehashing this age-old debate on whether to refer to the first
sentence of an article as the “lead” or, harkening back to the days of
linotype, “lede.”

Howard Owens explains:

“Some years ago, researching the evolution of ‘objective journalism,’ I
cracked open many of these old books, and something struck me — in none
of these old books did any author spell the word ‘lede.’ They all spell
it ‘lead.’

“It was then I realized, there is no historic basis for the spelling of a
lead as ‘lede.’ ‘Lede’ is an invention of linotype romanticists, not
something used in newsrooms of the linotype era.

“It’s really emblematic of today’s print nostalgia, too — like Desi and
Lucy sleeping in separate beds — a longing for an America that never
was, or wasn’t quite what you thought it was.”

Perhaps pathetically, I still remember ledes (or leads) that I’m
particularly proud of. “In cod they trust” for a story about a
husband/wife team of scentless fish oil innovators was a particular

My advice to fellow writers: Doesn’t matter how you spell the word, as long as the ones you write are good.

RELATED: Become a more efficient writer and editor after one day of training.

(Image via

Popularity: This record has been viewed 402 times.

Ragan.com moderates comments and reserves the right to remove posts that are abusive or otherwise inappropriate.