Transcript of Leads in Expository Writing
Start with one important observation Put your most surprising or important observation into your opening. Start with a Snapshot Boring:
Ice skating is my favorite sport. What's the most boring way you could begin an essay about the human brain? The United States Constitution? Hello my name is __ and I'm going to tell you about... Start with a strongly stated question your readers might have. In some ways all writing is about trying to answer our best questions. A strong question is the one we all want to know the answer to. Flaunt your favorite bit of research or fascinating fact in the lead. start with facts that made you smile, laugh, go "ahaaa!" or just plain grossed you out. Put your connection with the subject in the lead. What interests you about the topic? What specific memories of the subject come to mind? by Barry Lane Leads in Expository Writing or In this essay I will tell you about... Better:
It's ten degrees below zero and the river is frozen a foot thick. It makes snapping sounds like the limbs of trees cracking. A lone figure glides along the black ice, moving towards the city. The only sound is the scraping of each blade as it bites into the river. That's me doing my favorite sport, ice-skating. When you paint a picture, you draw the reader in. Boring:
The human brain is a complex and amazing organ. Better:
Seeing stars, it dreams of eternity. Hearing birds, it makes music. Smelling flowers it is enraptured. Touching tools, it transforms the earth. But deprived of these sensory experiences, the human brain withers and dies.
from Inside the Brain by Ronald Kotulak Weakly stated:
In this paper I will answer the question why history is important. Better:
What's the point of studying history? Who cares what happened long ago? After all, aren't the people in history books dead?
-from The History of US by Joy Hakim Boring:
Did you ever wonder why God created flies? Better:
Though we've been killing them for years now, I have never tested the folklore that with a little cream and sugar, flies taste very much like black raspberries. Boring:
The problem of longitude was one of the greatest scientific challenges of its day. Better:
Once on a Wednesday excursion when I was a little girl, my father bought me a beaded wire ball that I loved. At a touch, I could collapse the toy into a flat coil between my palms, or pop it open to make a hollow sphere. Rounded out it resembled a tiny Earth, because its hinged wires traced the same pattern of intersecting circles that I had seen on the globe in my school room--the thin black lines of latitude and longitude.
-from Longitude by Dava Sobel
The word ‘lead’ has many definitions. Too many, really. In fact, somebody should have put a stop to this nonsense a long time ago. But they didn’t, and now we have to live with it.
So, to help you avoid errors in your work, we’ve prepared a quick guide to the various uses of ‘lead’, along with some advice about not mixing up the words ‘lead’ and ‘led’.
Lead (Guidance, Winning, Cables and Metal)
We can break down the uses of ‘lead’ into four main categories:
Definition 1: Guidance
Perhaps the most common use of ‘lead’ is to mean ‘guide’ or ‘show the way’:
The satnav will lead us home.
She wanted to lead the expedition.
This is usually a verb (i.e. the act of guiding), but it can also be a noun (i.e. a thing that guides):
Without a lead to follow, Holmes would never solve the case.
We need to walk the dog, but I can’t find his lead.
Both verb and noun forms here are pronounced to rhyme with ‘seed’.
Definition 2: Winning
Another use of ‘lead’ is related to winning and success. As above, this can either be a verb (i.e. being in an advanced or winning position) or a noun (i.e. a winning position):
She is leading the field with her research.
After three laps, he was still in the lead.
This use of ‘lead’ also rhymes with ‘seed’ when spoken.
Definition 3: Electrical Cable
A slightly different use of ‘lead’ is to mean ‘electrical cable’:
My laptop died after I lost the lead I needed to charge it.
Despite the difference, this term is also pronounced to rhyme with ‘seed’.
Definition 4: Heavy Metal
Finally, ‘lead’ is also a soft, heavy metal (or the graphite in a pencil):
The lead paint fumes made him dizzy.
She kept drawing until the lead in her pencil broke.
This use of ‘lead’ is pronounced differently and rhymes with ‘bed’.
Led (Past Tense of ‘Lead’)
Thankfully, the word ‘led’ (also pronounced to rhyme with ‘bed’) is much easier to understand. In all cases, it is the past tense of the verb forms of ‘lead’:
She led the race from start to finish.
The road led up to the castle.
However, be careful not to mix it up with the initialism LED (pronounced ‘ell-ee-dee’), which is short for light-emitting diode (a small light used in some electronic products).
Lead or Led?
The main problem here is that ‘led’ (the past tense verb) is pronounced the same as ‘lead’ (the metal). In addition, some people assume that ‘lead’ follows the same pattern as ‘read’ (where ‘read’ is present and past tense).
But as long as you keep in mind that the past tense of ‘lead’ is always ‘led’ (no matter the context), it should be easy to avoid mistakes. Remember:
Lead (verb, rhymes with ‘seed’) = To guide, direct or occupy a winning position
Lead (noun, rhymes with ‘seed’) = A winning position or something that guides
Lead (noun, rhymes with ‘bed’) = A soft, heavy metal
Led (verb, rhymes with ‘bed’) = Past tense of ‘lead’