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University of Texas at Austin
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Checklist for Leads

  • Does the first word or phrase tell the most important idea in the story?
  • Does the lead begin with specific, interest-arousing words?
  • Is the WHO told, with the full name and a descriptive title or phrase included?
  • Is the WHAT and WHAT HAPPENED up to date, emphasizing the current or future angle?
  • Are the WHEN and WHERE answered in the lead but subordinated to more important information?
  • Are the HOW and WHY given a prominent place in the lead, if appropriate?
  • If the lead is 30 words or more, has it been broken into two sentences or paragraphs for easier reading?
  • Does the lead catch the spirit of the story? Does it create the proper tone, such as serious or light?
  • Is the lead free from spelling, style and grammar errors?
  • Are all names spelled correctly?

By Bobby Hawthorne
Former Director, Interscholastic League Press Conference
Please see that Bobby Hawthorne and the ILPC are appropriately credited.