Idiom Tips: Bury the Lede or Bury the Lead?
  • 2-minute read
  • 28th July 2021

Idiom Tips: Bury the Lede or Bury the Lead?

‘Bury the lede’ and ‘bury the lead’ are both acceptable ways to spell the same idiom. But what does this phrase mean? Why are there two spellings? And which one should you use in your writing? Let’s take a look.

What Does ‘Bury the Lede’ Mean?

To ‘bury the lede’ means to fail to emphasise the most important part of a story from the start. The ‘lede’ here is the lead paragraph of an article. And on a literal level, the phrase means to fail to begin an article with the information a reader would need to know to follow the story. For example, you might say:

If you bury the lede by not mentioning the arrest, people will be confused.

On a more figurative level, people often use this phrase to mean ‘obscure or fail to mention important information’. For instance:

She complained about his behaviour on their first date, but she didn’t mention that he was married for weeks! Talk about burying the lede!

In either case, though, it can be spelled ‘bury the lede’ or ‘bury the lead’. We use ‘lede’ above since it reflects the phrase’s journalistic origins.

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Why Is It Spelled ‘Lede’?

The term ‘lede’ originated in newsrooms between the 1950s and 1970s. It was created to avoid confusion between the ‘lead’ paragraph in an article and the metal lead (pronounced ‘led’), which was used in printing presses.

Even though printing is now mostly digital, many still use ‘lede’ to refer to a lead paragraph. It was even added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2008.

Summary: Bury the Lede or Bury the Lead?

To sum up what we’ve covered here:

  • The idiom bury the lede means to fail to emphasise the most important part of a story in an article (or vital information more generally).
  • Both bury the lede and bury the lead are correct, with ‘lede’ simply being an alternative journalistic spelling invented between the 1950s and 1970s.

Whether to use ‘lead’ or ‘lede’ in this context is largely a matter of preference and both are common. However, if there could be ambiguity about whether you’re referring to an opening paragraph or the metal traditionally used in printing presses, it may be better to stick to the journalistic spelling, ‘lede’!

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