Is it okay to start a piece with a question lead?
Yes, but it depends on how you use it.
I just started this section with a question, and it drew you immediately into the topic. What’s wrong with that? Many newspaper editors object that journalism answers questions rather than asking them, which is pretentious nonsense.
Question leads engage your readers, and, done simply, start you off with a conversational tone. Readers will expect you to answer that question quickly, and get impatient if you don’t, which will help you get to the point. They’re the easiest kind of lead to write.
Questions leads have one drawback: they’re addictive, especially when you feel punk. It’s Monday, and you’re got post-weekend blues, so you get yourself going with a question lead. On Tuesday, you’re coming down with the flu, so you just slide in with a question lead. That night, your dog Stump dies, so you get through Wednesday with a question lead. And on Thursday, …. Question leads are so easy, they can become a crutch.
The best opening for your readers answers the question “What’s this about?” right away. How do you figure that out? Ask and answer a question that strikes at the heart of the matter, like this:
What this about?
Well, is it patriotic to save money in a consumer-spending crisis?
Type the question as a draft lead, then answer it, then develop the topic. When you revise, delete the question and buff up the answer. And you’ll have a terrific lead in record time.