The Grammarphobia Blog

The scoop on newspaper jargon

Q: I read many blogs on the Web. One word that I keep seeing is “lede.” It is usually used as the equivalent of “lead,” as in the lead, or opening, paragraph. My compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary seems to indicate that it is an obscure variant of “lead.” Has the Web brought this word to life?

A: Thanks for the question. The word “lede” is newspaper language for the lead paragraph (or “graf”) in a news story. The headline is called the “hed,” which often includes a “subhed,” perhaps an overline (or “deck”) and, if it jumps to the inside, a “jumphed.” The abbreviations “HTK” and “LTK” mean “hed to come” and “lede to come.”

This is just industry jargon. It wasn’t intended to make its way into the language, but it sometimes slips by the copy desk and gets into a newspaper. As you point out, such newsroom talk can also be seen on websites, especially those popular with journalists, journalism groupies, or people who want to show what insiders they are.