How To Start A Editorial Essay Outline
Editorials are probably the most difficult type of journalistic piece to write. Coming from someone who's written far too many of them, they can be emotionally and mentally draining. But they can also be extremely rewarding, especially if more of your readers agree with you than those who don't.
However, opinion pieces involve sharing your opinion. This is, quite obviously, not the point of writing the news or writing for a newspaper.
This means there are plenty of rules involved. If you want your audience to value your opinion and, in turn, take you seriously as a writer, you need to know the difference between a hard-hearted rant and a fair point of view.
You should be writing the latter, not the former. Sharing your opinion is fine, but save the anger for your social media pages (and, even then, you should keep your settings on "private"). In journalistic writing, editorials should be well-researched and factual.
Below are five steps that will help you in your opinionated endeavors.
1. Choose a relevant, newsworthy topic
This is where I would usually insert a very long paragraph about the importance of making your stories newsworthy and relevant to the public. However, when it comes to opinion pieces, you really only need to focus on the second half of that equation.
A great editorial should be about something fairly recent, of course, but the most important part is relevancy. Why do you think this opinion needs to be shared? Are there statistics that you want to present? Facts that have been brought to your attention? What is it about this particular topic that makes readers want to listen?
The beauty of opinion writing is that it can be about literally anything, as long as you bring value to the topic. I can write an editorial about breakfast cereal. As long as I make it relevant to my audience, it's going to get published.
2. Research all aspects of your topic
Have you ever heard someone say that there are three sides to every story? There's the side you hear from, say, your best friend. Then there's the side you hear from your enemy. And then, of course, there's the truth. As journalists, we usually try to get to the "truth" part of the equation. As an editorial writer, you need to do something in between. While you need to pick either your best friend or your enemy, you still need to have a good idea of what the "truth" really is. That means conducting a ton of research.
3. Develop a well-constructed opinion
Once you've gathered all of the information you can about your topic, you need to pick your side and develop a valid opinion. Yes, there's a difference between a valid opinion and an invalid opinion. An invalid opinion would be something like, "I don't want to do the homework because I don't feel like it." A valid opinion would be something like, "I don't want to do the homework because I feel that it's detrimental to the student body to be forced to work for hours after school, well into the part of the night when they should be playing with friends or spending time with their family."
It's pretty apparent that the second argument is better. But why?
It's all about the reasoning you present. Not only do you need to use language that engages your audience and proves that you know what you're talking about, but you need to develop clear reasons why your side is the right side.
4. Create an outline
Once you've finished developing your argument, you need to make an outline for your story. In what paragraph will you share statistical research? In what paragraph will you include quotes from valuable sources (if you include any at all)? At what point will you acknowledge the other side, then refute their claims? These are all very important structural components of an editorial, and you need to be prepared to include them.
When you've finished your outline, go ahead and write the piece. It should flow smoothly, now that you've done your research.
5. Read your piece out loud before publication
I always emphasize reading your work out loud before submitting it to a professor or an editor, but this step is particularly important for editorial writers. You need to ensure that your article doesn't sound over-the-top or "ranty". It's extremely important that your work sounds professional and succinct, even if it isn't traditional in nature.
With that being said, go out and find a topic. The world is waiting to hear what you have to say.
Writing an Editorial
Another Tutorial by:
Annandale High School
Annandale, VA 22312
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDITORIAL WRITING
An editorial is an article that presents the newspaper's opinion on an issue. It reflects the majority vote of the editorial board, the governing body of the newspaper made up of editors and business managers. It is usually unsigned. Much in the same manner of a lawyer, editorial writers build on an argument and try to persuade readers to think the same way they do. Editorials are meant to influence public opinion, promote critical thinking, and sometimes cause people to take action on an issue. In essence, an editorial is an opinionated news story.
1. Introduction, body and conclusion like other news stories
2. An objective explanation of the issue, especially complex issues
3. A timely news angle
4. Opinions from the opposing viewpoint that refute directly the same issues the writer addresses
5. The opinions of the writer delivered in a professional manner. Good editorials engage issues, not personalities and refrain from name-calling or other petty tactics of persuasion.
6. Alternative solutions to the problem or issue being criticized. Anyone can gripe about a problem, but a good editorial should take a pro-active approach to making the situation better by using constructive criticism and giving solutions.
7. A solid and concise conclusion that powerfully summarizes the writer's opinion. Give it some punch.
Four Types of Editorials Will:
1. Explain or interpret: Editors often use these editorials to explain the way the newspaper covered a sensitive or controversial subject. School newspapers may explain new school rules or a particular student-body effort like a food drive.
2. Criticize: These editorials constructively criticize actions, decisions or situations while providing solutions to the problem identified. Immediate purpose is to get readers to see the problem, not the solution.
3. Persuade: Editorials of persuasion aim to immediately see the solution, not the problem. From the first paragraph, readers will be encouraged to take a specific, positive action. Political endorsements are good examples of editorials of persuasion.
4. Praise: These editorials commend people and organizations for something done well. They are not as common as the other three.
Writing an Editorial
1. Pick a significant topic that has a current news angle and would interest readers.
2. Collect information and facts; include objective reporting; do research
3. State your opinion briefly in the fashion of a thesis statement
4. Explain the issue objectively as a reporter would and tell why this situation is important
5. Give opposing viewpoint first with its quotations and facts
6. Refute (reject) the other side and develop your case using facts, details, figures, quotations. Pick apart the other side's logic.
7. Concede a point of the opposition — they must have some good points you can acknowledge that would make you look rational.
8. Repeat key phrases to reinforce an idea into the reader's minds.
9. Give a realistic solution(s) to the problem that goes beyond common knowledge. Encourage critical thinking and pro-active reaction.
10. Wrap it up in a concluding punch that restates your opening remark (thesis statement).
11. Keep it to 500 words; make every work count; never use "I"
A Sample Structure
I. Lead with an Objective Explanation of the Issue/Controversy.
Include the five W's and the H. (Members of Congress, in effort to reduce the budget, are looking to cut funding from public television. Hearings were held …)
- Pull in facts and quotations from the sources which are relevant.
- Additional research may be necessary.
II. Present Your Opposition First.
As the writer you disagree with these viewpoints. Identify the people (specifically who oppose you. (Republicans feel that these cuts are necessary; other cable stations can pick them; only the rich watch public television.)
- Use facts and quotations to state objectively their opinions.
- Give a strong position of the opposition. You gain nothing in refuting a weak position.
III. Directly Refute The Opposition's Beliefs.
You can begin your article with transition. (Republicans believe public televison is a "sandbox for the rich." However, statistics show most people who watch public television make less than $40,000 per year.)
- Pull in other facts and quotations from people who support your position.
- Concede a valid point of the opposition which will make you appear rational, one who has considered all the options (fiscal times are tough, and we can cut some of the funding for the arts; however, …).
IV. Give Other, Original Reasons/Analogies
In defense of your position, give reasons from strong to strongest order. (Taking money away from public television is robbing children of their education …)
- Use a literary or cultural allusion that lends to your credibility and perceived intelligence (We should render unto Caesar that which belongs to him …)
V. Conclude With Some Punch.
Give solutions to the problem or challenge the reader to be informed. (Congress should look to where real wastes exist — perhaps in defense and entitlements — to find ways to save money. Digging into public television's pocket hurts us all.)
- A quotation can be effective, especially if from a respected source
- A rhetorical question can be an effective concluder as well (If the government doesn't defend the interests of children, who will?)
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