Types of Leads in Writing

Crafting a lead is your first opportunity to tell your story.
... Ciaran Griffin/Photodisc/Getty Images

The lead paragraph in your writing is the first opportunity you have to engage the reader in the topic and invite him to continue reading. In journalism, the lead is straightforward, and this type of lead can be adapted to both academic and narrative writing. Additionally, less standard leads allow you to draw the reader into the argument.

1 Traditional Journalistic Leads

The most basic lead is popular in newspaper reporting and is used in essay writing. The straightforward lead addresses the six questions -- who, what, where, when, why and how. In this lead, you get straight to the point and give your reader only the facts about the overall topic of your writing. In journalism, this type of lead tells the reader immediately why the story is news. In essay form, this type of lead is particularly useful with history topics, as writers can describe events in terms of who, what and when.

2 Dramatic Leads

The dramatic lead attempts to build suspense in the first paragraph of writing. You can use it to paint a picture of a setting that is particularly bleak or overly exciting to engage your reader immediately in the problem or new development. In contrast to the journalistic lead, a dramatic opening does not have to include answers to the six basic questions that the writer will answer. Instead, you may focus on one or two aspects that may be most shocking to the reader.

3 Quote and Background Leads

Beginning an essay with information from another source or pertinent background information can help give validity to your argument. Opening with a quote from a well-known expert in the topic of your essay may provide the reader with an idea of the importance of your writing. Quotes can also help to add personality to the opening of your essay and create interest in the reader. Another method of providing a strong foundation for your writing is to open with background information about your topic. This delayed lead gives the reader insight into the overall importance and precedence for your ideas.

4 Other Types of Leads

Another lead that serves to engage the reader in the topic of your writing immediately is the anecdotal lead. This lead provides a brief narrative as an example of your larger topic. Opening your writing with a question may also trigger ideas in the reader that encourage him to continue to read to see your perspective. The question lead introduces the topic of your essay while giving the reader an idea of your potential angle in answering the question.

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.