Bury the Lede vs. Bury the Lead: Idiom Tips and Origins
  • 2-minute read
  • 28th July 2021

Bury the Lede vs. Bury the Lead: Idiom Tips and Origins

Are you wondering if it’s “bury the lede” or “bury the lead”? Both are correct, but which one should you use? In this article, we’ll explore the meaning of this common idiom, why there are two spellings, and which one is best for your writing. Plus, we’ll delve into the origins of the word “lede.”

What Does “Bury the Lede” Mean?

To “bury the lede” means to fail to emphasize 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 behavior 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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“Bury the Lede” vs. “Bury the Lead”

Both “bury the lede” and “bury the lead” are acceptable spellings of this phrase. However, “lede” is the journalistic spelling that originated in newsrooms in the mid-20th century. It was created to avoid confusion with “lead,” the metal traditionally used in printing presses. Even though digital printing has largely replaced physical printing, “lede” continues to be used in journalism today. In 2008, it was even added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Which One Should You Use?

Whether to use “lede” or “lead” depends on your audience and context. If you’re writing for a news publication or using the term in a journalistic context, “lede” is the preferred spelling. However, if you’re writing for a general audience or not referring specifically to journalism, either spelling is acceptable.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, “bury the lede” and “bury the lead” are both correct spellings of this idiom. “Lede” is the journalistic spelling that emerged in the mid-20th century to avoid confusion with the metal “lead.” Whether you choose to use “lede” or “lead” depends on your audience and context. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be able to use this phrase with confidence in your writing.

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Comments (2)
9th March 2022 at 04:17
This says the spelling was changed in the 70s. Other sites say that the alternate spelling started in the 50s. Doubt it would matter to most, unless on a trivia game or something like that.
    9th March 2022 at 09:40
    Hi, Dwayne. We'd based this post on the date given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but looking elsewhere online, it does seem that other sources suggest it may have originated in the 1950s, so we'll update the post to cover this possibility. Thanks for pointing it out.

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