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The Summary Lead: Put First Things First

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

An online devotional for writers

A Word From The Word

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, ESV)

A Word For Writers

Today’s typical newspaper article opens with a summary lead. It’s a tight condensation of the article’s most important information, presented in a sentence or two and totaling 30 words or less. 

The Summary Lead: an online devotional for writers with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #ChristianWriting Resources #FreelanceWriting #ArticleWriting

The summary lead format grew from the mid-1800s invention of the telegraph. The new-at-the-time technology meant journalists could send messages instantaneously over long distances through electrical wires – one letter at a time.

That labor-intensive approach meant that telegrams were expensive to send. Ten words transmitted from New York to New Orleans cost $2.70 – about $65 in today’s currency, according to Brian Dodson, Ph.D

It’s no surprise, then, that Civil War journalists became skilled at succinct article summaries. If time and budget allowed, other important news and additional details followed across the telegraph lines. This direct, no-nonsense style was a sharp contrast to long-winded, flowery chronological reporting characteristic of the early nineteenth century.

Today’s web pages and blog posts use a summary lead to position the most important information at the top of the page. A summary lead puts first things first, offering a framework for the rest of the post. 

Jesus pointed out the same principle in how we conduct our lives: Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33, ESV). When the most important truth comes first, then you have a framework in which to live out the rest.

A Wise Word

A summary lead creates a framework for your article or web page.

A Word To Pray

Loving Father,

It’s easy for me to get priorities out of alignment. Help me keep You first in my life. Help me use the same principle as I write, keeping the most important information a priority.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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