An article appeared in The Sun earlier this week with an Evocative Ah lead.* You know the sort: Ah, summertime! Or Ah, ripe peaches! Or Ah, homicides! The Evocative Ah opening is so versatile that it can be used in any season, for any subject, and is equally meaningless for all of them.
The Evocative Ah is not alone. Writers of limited imagination draw on a store of stock leads — of which the “not alone” lead/transition is one of the more annoying. It can be safely deleted whenever it pops up.**
Some years ago, the estimable Dick Thien made a list of these brain-dead formulas, and the American Copy Editors Society maintains the list on its website. He has the “Webster’s defines” lead, the one-word lead, the faux-King-James-English lead, the “good-news-bad-news” lead (though he unaccountably omits the “best-of-times-worst-of-times” lead), the “welcome to” lead, and more.
My suggestion to you is to follow the link to Mr. Thien’s compilation, consider it carefully, recollect how often you have resorted to such hack writing, and vow to sin no more.
*Sorry. I didn’t clip it, and the recycling truck has already run today. Visualize.
**It was after I deleted this hoary device from a Sun article that the author complained to me, “It’s not a cliche when I use it.” I am not making this up, you know.