Some habits are hard to break. For me, the habit of “burying the lead” is one that I have to overcome. My approach to writing has always been the essay format:
Part 1: Tell the readers what you’re going to tell them about
Part 2: Tell them
Part 3: Tell them what you’ve just told them
This method is not incongruous with the “don’t bury the lead” rule, except that Part 1 of essay writing always involves a necessary bit of preamble that makes things a bit muddy, and this is the part that derails me. Part 1 consists of three subsections, right at the beginning of the essay:
- The hook—a sentence to get the readers thinking. Deathless prose like “Some habits are hard to break” always works for me.
- Connecting information—something that the reader may need to know before reading the rest of my work. Here, I might mention my bad habit of rolling my eyes each time someone wants to show me a picture of their kids.
- The thesis—the gist of what you’re going to tell your readers.
This is it! The thesis is the lead! This is the part that deserves to be at the top of the article, but instead it has to be patient, and go through the ritual of the entire opening stanza before the big reveal. It’s like having the big star be the first to walk the red carpet at the awards show rather than the last.
On reflection, I think my approach should be more like paragraph writing. A topic sentence in a paragraph is the lead, but an essay paragraph is not. I am going to remind myself of this simple but important fact. Dear readers, I ask that you also remind me in the future. Be honest. Be mercilessly honest. Thank you!