Dead on Arrival Leads

• A lead that begins with stage lights coming up, curtains rising, audiences applauding and performers beaming.

• A lead that contains the words like partake, amidst, betwixt or festooned.

• A lead that jumbles past, present and future tense in the same sentence.

1.   Last week, the school board voted on a proposal introduced last month to begin a new program called “Integrated Grading Dynamics,” starting next fall.

2.   Following last week’s proposal for a partnership with a leadership group for next year’s seniors, the school board will vote next week after hearing from citizens the day before.

• A lead that opens with a general statement:

1.   Football is often referred to as a man’s game, but in this case, it is a woman who shows the passion.

• A lead that assumes or overstates a fact:

1.   Most young girls dream of one day being a princess.

How would you know what most young girls dream? Why would you assume most young girls dream of one day being a princess? It might be true that some or many dream of being a princess, but most means “at least 50.1%.” Now, you have to prove it.

The following sentence: Many young girls dream of one day being a princess…” works only if the next sentence is “Molly Alexander dreamed of being a pirate.”

• A lead that’s wordy, pretentious, overwritten.

In a room with innocent faces illuminated by wide smiles, cheeriness and a big group hug with a Special Education instructor, the words “I will never be invited to the prom,” expounded less than half a year ago by a weeping 14-year-old girl, Emily Blake, seemed to vanish from existence as the possibility for her to become a princess, even if just for a moment, popped into actuality.

Say what you mean clearly and precisely. Read it aloud to make sure it says what you meant for it to say. My first comment regarding the writing sample above: Do special ed kids “expound?” Who any kids? I doubt it. Compare the piece above to the one below:

A year ago, freshman Emily Blake told her Special Ed teacher, Ron Crenshaw, “I’ll never be invited to the prom. Nobody in this room will.” Then she cried, and then Crenshaw cried and then he vowed to work to see that every kid in school who wants to attend prom will attend prom. This spring, they will.

• A lead that’s vague, careless, wordy, redundant.

He was worked and studied countless long, hard hours night and day and was not at all surprised to find out that he was named class valedictorian. It goes without saying, he was happy, and he said so in response to a reporter’s question. 44 words

If you can count the number of hours he worked, then they’re not countless.

“Worked and studied” is redundant. He studied…

Hours are 60 minutes. There’s no such thing as a 61-minute hour.

He expected to be named valedictorian. You don’t need “class.” It goes without saying.

Tighten. Change "find out" to "learn."

“It goes without saying,” so don’t say it.

He was studied three hours minimum, every night. He studied three hours on his birthday and four hours on Christmas day. Asked if he was surprised to be named valedictorian, he answered, “Not in the least.” 36 words