How to Write an Editorial Flagstaff AZ
Prescott Valley, AZ
San Tan Valley, AZ
How to Write an Editorial
Editorials are newspaper or magazine articles that promote a particular perspective or opinion, usually of the publication’s editor in chief or senior editors. Although it is presumed that the top editors write the editorials, publications have individual policies regarding editorial writing. For instance, the top editors may have a cycle rotation to determine who will write the editorial for a specific issue. There are even publications with designated editorial writers (usually from their ranks of column or senior writers). Editorials or opinion pieces are usually the personal opinion of the (undisclosed) writer, but they can also be the official statement or stand of the publication. While most editorials tackle serious local, national, and even international issues, opinion pieces can be about anything and everything. For instance, the most reprinted editorial is the 1897 opinion piece first published in the The New York Sun—about Santa Claus.
So how do you write a good editorial? Here are some writings tips on how to write an opinion piece.
The basics of an editorial
Basic journalism manuals say that editorials should have any one of these purposes: to inform, to entertain, to praise, and to promote. This is true, although having this purpose will not guarantee that the editorial will be good, compelling read. What many beginners fail to realize is that writing an editorial is no different from writing a news article or a feature story.
For instance, as with the other types of articles, editorials have to be timely and relevant. For example, the Santa Claus editorial may not be a current events issue, but it was both timely and relevant—since the said opinion piece was published during the Christmas season and it answered a question (Does Santa Claus exist?) some people might want answered. Writing an editorial about America’s stance on helping Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake adheres to relevance and timelessness. Writing about it months after? Possibly not.
Like your usual article, your opinion piece also has to be backed up by facts. Unlike a news or feature article, editorials allow you to air an opinion and side on an issue or controversy—a major no-no in straight news articles or features (since they only have one purpose: to inform). But opinion has to be backed up facts. If you don’t get your facts straight, how can your readers take your opinion seriously? Facts are the foundation of any article. With questionable facts, your opinion piece is already off to a rocky start.
Of course, just like other form of writing, it has to be entertaining—something you can achieve by improving your writing skills. Your language has to be persuasive and clear in order to make readers understand and even support your stand. You also need to know your attitude—about the topic and on how you wish to tackle the issue you are going to write about.
Delving deep into the editorial
But all these editorial basics do not immediately ensure your writing is successful. Your opinion piece has to go deeper in order to become successful. These writing tips will ensure that your editorials will be relevant and well written:
First, before writing your opinion piece, ask yourself: who I am writing for? Knowing who your primary audience is will make writing the editorial easier. With the Santa Claus editorial stated earlier, the primary audience of the opinion piece was the eight-year-old who sent the letter to the newspaper, asking if Santa Claus exists. Therefore, the author wrote it for the letter sender, taking his age and sensibilities (as well as the impact of what the editorial’s answer will be) into consideration. You may not always get letter senders asking relevant, editorial-worthy questions, but you can use this as your anchor. Write an opinion piece that will be relevant to your main audience. If you do this, your opinion piece will be relevant to everyone else.
With an audience in mind, you should assess what you want to achieve with your writing. The basics mentioned earlier still apply, but you need to think in a much bigger scale. To entertain your audience (as what the Santa Claus editorial did) works, but a more specific purpose works better. Are you stating your paper’s official stand or response regarding an issue? Are you trying to persuade your readers to change their opinion about a subject matter? Or are trying to inform the public about something?
After the specific purpose comes the more difficult part. Editorials and opinions pieces—or, for that matter, any kind of relevant writing—has to provide or contribute something new. Several years ago, publications were all publishing editorials about the government’s response after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This is a relevant and (was) a timely issue. However, you need to consider: what has been said about the issue? And, more important, consider: what hasn’t been said about the issue? Are you going to say something new, or will you merely, unconsciously parrot what has been said before? Wore, are you going to unconscious parrot something that has been said better before?
Relevant opinion pieces add value to the argument. Of course, if you’re stating an opinion or a stand, it’s likely that what you will say has been said before. The challenge here, therefore, is to advance your opinion piece by supporting your opinion with news facts or a new perspective to an old fact. In short: find a different angle. Editorials first mentioned how ineffective and inefficient the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina is. The next step is go beyond this. Why do you think it is ineffective? And this was certainly done, so other editorials went further. They asked and answered: was it really ineffective? Was the criticism a liberal propaganda?
The point is, explore a topic. Do not tackle the obvious. And if you have to tackle the obvious, support it with deeper, more extensive facts. And if this is no longer possible, tackle it in a different tone, with a different attitude. This is what the Santa Claus editorial did. Instead of merely stating how adults (and even other children) can be so jaded, the writing instead merely tackled it with subtlety, making it effective, poignant, and even poetic.