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The Lead

A lead or introduction is the first paragraph or several paragraphs of your article. Its job is to get readers’ attention and draw them in. The body of the article is where you make your point(s), but you need a good lead to get them to want to read it.

Generally, a lead in an essay or peer-reviewed article summarizes the outline of the argument and conclusion that follows in the main body of the essay. That may be appropriate depending on the premise of your article. However, it is important to remember your audience ... the NCO Journal is a forum for your fellow NCOs. You should write for them. They are time-constrained, busy leading troops and focusing on mission accomplishment. So, if you want them to read your article, you need to hook them with an interesting lead.

There are two categories of leads, direct and indirect. The first gets right to the basics: who, what, when, where and why, with a dose of how if appropriate.

If the essence of the article is on the consequences of an event, a direct lead is best. It takes one step back from the event itself, provides perspective on a simple fact and lets the audience know its implications.

If a direct lead gets straight to the point, an indirect lead does the opposite. Rather than telling the audience about an event or its implications, indirect leads can zoom in to pick out a single detail, character or quote. It could be one detail or a single character in a large scenario. It could be an anecdote, which is in effect a story within the story. It can be a riveting quote or a striking visual image painted in words. It can be anything as long as it works.

When considering what kind of lead to use, ask yourself two questions: First, what is important about your article? A proposal or a new and better way of leading Soldiers, its implications, the big picture? Second, what is the most effective route into the article for the readers? Is it the idea itself or a person at the center of a scenario? Do you have a quote that drives home your idea’s impact? Whatever you choose as your starting point, it should immediately bring your article to life and get the reader interested and involved.