How to Write a Delayed Identification Lead

Sometimes there is a good reason to delay identifying someone in an article.
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If you've been studying journalism in school, you probably know that most articles are written in inverted pyramid style -- with information given in descending order of importance -- and that the lead consists of the “five W's and one H,” or the who, what, where, when, why and how. As you expand your writing repertoire, you will learn how to write a delayed identification lead, in which you sublimate the “who.”

1 News Story Example

In some news stories, the “who” might not be nearly as important as other information. In fact, the “who” might not even be known to most readers. In this case, a delayed identification lead accentuates the most important elements first. You might begin this type of story by writing a sentence like, “A Lithuanian immigrant who led Chicago police and U.S. Marshals on a two-week manhunt was apprehended Thursday as he slept on a park bench near the Museum of Science and Industry.” This approach makes sense because the immigrant's name hasn't been reported, but his movements over the course of two weeks have been. The second paragraph would then identify the immigrant by name, as in: “Stanislaus Kvorak, 42, was covered in drenched copies of the 'Chicago Sun-Times' when he was found.”

2 Feature Story Example

A delayed identification lead is an effective technique when you wish to build interest, curiosity or suspense so the reader wonders, “Who is this person?” In this spirit, a delayed identification might be written, “His clients consider him direct and efficient. His colleagues regard him as brash and ill-tempered. To his family, he is merely 'rough around the edges.' But on this point everyone would agree: Kevin Scott can be a charmer when he wants to be.”

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.