“Lede” is not a word

Too many writers are caught up in a fad of using “lede” to mean the beginning of a news article wherein the main news is summarized. (See the end of the fifth paragraph in this piece, for example.) If you thought that was a sense of the very well known noun “lead”, pronounced with a long “e”, then I am with you. I think it is weird and parochial to give the word a special spelling in a journalistic context.

The explanation is that it has been common practice in the newspaper business to spell it “lede” to avoid confusion with “lead” as in the lead metal type that printing presses use. I can imagine it might be useful in proofreading marks to avoid confusion with the verb “lead” in the sense of adding space between lines. I just do not see how it is a necessary distinction for the general consumers of an article.

Now if some reformer wanted to always spell the long-e form of “lead” as “lede”, in any context, I would respect that, but that is not what people are doing.

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