Editing the Anecdotal Lead What is an anecdotal lead?
Donna Williams missed dinner three times last month as she worked to get out bills for the city. Two weeks ago her family offered an ultimatum: Put in less overtime or else. The budget office employee decided it was time to ask the Carrolton City Council for approval to purchase a new $225,000 computer for City Hall with updated processing systems and software.
The article starts off with a story about an individual and then expands into a more global story (the larger issue). It then transits back to the individual for the close of the story (a memorable ending), something that inverted pyramid stories lack. The problem with the anecdotal lead is that the anecdote sometimes take time to develop. If it takes too much time you lose the reader. You need to get to the point of the story quickly.
Editing the anecdotal lead Does it illustrate the story fairly? Does it suggest the problem is worse than it is, or does it not really apply. Did you tell enough of the story? Does the anecdote exemplify the topic/subject?
Did you identify the person/persons in the lead to help audiences identify with the narrative and avoid the over dramatic he/she references.
If needed, is the nut graf high enough up (at least by 5 th graf) to give the reader an idea of what will be about?
Would the story have been better told using a hard news lead?
Larger issue Does the reporter adequately cover the larger issue?
Move away from strict editing that makes all stories the same You want writers to show their voice – personality injected into a story as a writing device. This can evoke strong reactions in some readers
Keep writers conversational quality – this makes readers feel writer is talking informally to them
Others techniques a writer might use to keep: –Posing questions –Using colloquialisms –Slang –Sentence fragments
Copy editors make sure reporters didn’t get carried away – voice inappropriate
Since most features are told in chronological order or blocks you can’t usually cut from bottom. “Sin” to cut story by eliminating some of colorful descriptions or details in anecdotes, unless linguistic flourishes not needed. Overwriting and description not needed can be removed
Other story forms (Q&A, timeline) Check for accuracy Check for completeness Check for usefulness Check for interest