Business Writing Training and Coaching

For Businesses and Executives

Don’t Bury the Lead!

The term “bury the lead” comes from journalism. In a news story, the “lead” is the first sentence, which concisely conveys the main point of the story. Ideally, a reader should be able to scan just the first sentence or two of a story and come away with a clear idea what that story is about. A good lead will also “hook” the reader and motivate him to read further. A story with a buried lead begins with the secondary details, forcing the reader to continue reading to discover its main point.

Burying the lead is considered a mistake in journalism, because it can cause a reader to lose interest in a story and stop reading. For the same reason, burying the lead is also a bad idea in your e-mails. Your readers are busy people, and if you want maximum attention—and maximum action—you’re better off beginning your e-mails with your main point and providing the secondary details below. At the very least, you should be sure to get your main point in the first (brief) paragraph of your e-mail message.

The next time you write an e-mail, read it over before you hit “send.” Have you buried the lead? Will your reader get your main point in the first sentence, or at least in the first two or three lines of the message? If not, try revising the e-mail to bring the lead to the front—you’ll get more attention from your readers and more action on your requests.

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