Have you ever read something in the newspaper and thought, “Well, that simply isn’t right!” Maybe you disagreed with the perspective or content. Or perhaps you felt that an important part of the picture was missing.
An “op-ed” (which originates from “opposite the editorial page”) is a written piece published by a newspaper or magazine in which the author takes expresses their opinion. For example, new immigration laws might prompt international students to write a scathing review of the harsh restrictions, or a ban on plastic straws might inspire an essay on the bigger impact of sustainability starting at the corporate level. Writing an op-ed is a great way to practice penning an opinion piece, but it’s easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help get you started:
Most essays are developed slowly, piecing together evidence after evidence until the entire puzzle is complete. An op-ed is the opposite. You only have a couple hundred words to sway the reader’s opinion, so you’ll want to start off with a bang.
Before anything else, state your conclusion. Make your strongest point the first point. There is a psychological phenomena called the “primacy” effect in which we tend to remember the first thing in a series. Use this to your advantage.
Make your argument ironclad. Provide factual, researched evidence that proves your point of view. Opinions based on theory — or worse, myth — don’t go very far. People are swayed by science. Even better, make note of any historical precedences that also have a similar outcome. Your goal is to educate your reader.
Be approachable and not hostile. You attract more bees with honey. In the same way, your writing should come off firm but friendly. Resist the easy temptation to attack the other side. Disagreeing with someone can be done in a very polite way, and resorting to name-calling or cyber-bullying often makes you, not your opponent, look bad.
Use clear and direct language. Using too many adjectives or long and windy sentences can belabor your meaning. Be clear in what you are saying. Emphasize the use of active verbs. Don’t get caught up in adjectives and adverbs and use them only strategically. Avoid cliches, jargons, and puns.