CPC blogabout

A Gannett Louisiana Content Production Center share point

Ledes, heds, widows and orphans

Posted by kathyspurlock on November 3, 2009

Eric commented one night that someone had called the first paragraph of a news story a “lede.”

I knew the editor on the other end of that instant message meant “lead,” but I couldn’t answer Eric’s question about why we call a lead a “lede.”

Well, now I can.  Journalists used the word “lede” to distinguish it from “lead,” which was used in its melted form to make the raised type that was hand-set into galleys for the “hot type” printing process.

The word’s origin actually is older than modern journalism. Learn more at http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20001128.

“Hed” instead of “headline” also is a journalism abbreviation that you’ll see sometimes when you are given instructions by a site. 

If you see “widow” or “orphan” marked on a proof, we don’t want any of them around the CPC.

Here’s what that means:

A widow is a paragraph-ending line that falls at the beginning of the following page/column, thus separated from the remainder of the text.

An orphan is a paragraph-opening line that appears by itself at the bottom of a page/column.

There’s also an orphan quote.  This is when one or two words are selectively placed in quotation marks by the writer, but they are usually unnecessary and disrupt the flow of the sentence.  Example: Kathy said it was “great” to have sunshine today.


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