Twenty-five tips for being a good writer of opinion pieces

Sometime ago I was asked to speak to a class about opinion writing. This is what I told them:

  1. Have something to say and don’t force the reader to wait until the last paragraph to find out what it is.
  2. Decide who you are speaking for. (Yourself? A group? An institution?)
  3. Decide what you want to accomplish. (Educate? Entertain? Motivate? Change minds?)
  4. Don’t take a poll to decide what you’re going to say
  5. Don’t take a poll to decide how you’re going to say it.
  6. Feel strongly about what it is you want to say, but not so strongly that you let your emotions overrule all other instincts.
  7. Don’t be afraid to show how strongly you feel about what it is you want to say, but be aware that a person who yells all the time is very likely to be tuned-out by most people.
  8. Say what you want to say in a way that touches people’s hearts and souls.  
  9. There is no better way to touch the readers’ souls than by baring your own soul.
  10. You can persuade by reason, but you can only motivate through emotion.
  11. Talk about your personal experiences but only to help you get your points across.
  12. Be willing to make a fool of yourself but, for heaven’s sake, don’t make it a habit.
  13. Don’t be afraid to antagonize enemies or friends, but do it for a good reason, not just to antagonize.
  14. Beware of facts: they are a good opinion writer’s worst enemy and a mediocre opinion writer’s best friend; they should be used sparingly and with caution.
  15. Quoting other people is good if it strengthens your argument, but bad if you quote others to keep from expressing your own thoughts.
  16. It is not your job to comfort the powerful; it is your job to inflict as much discomfort on them as possible.
  17. Your goal should never be to embarrass or cause pain to private citizens, no matter how stupid they may seem.
  18. Don’t let yourself believe that politicians, entertainers, sports figures, etc., are your friends.
  19. Be passionately in love with the language and don’t be afraid to show it.
  20. Keep it simple.
  21. Each sentence should logically follow the previous sentence and each paragraph should logically follow the previous paragraph.
  22. Reading a column should be like following a trail from the starting point to the end. It should be a smooth and simple path, free of obstacles, detours and roadblocks.
  23.  When you are wrong, acknowledge it right away and apologize profusely and sincerely.
  24.  Mejor un loco y no dos. Always strive to be the voice of reason, the voice of maturity.
  25. Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it; there are plenty of others who want to do it.

About juanzqui7

Former Texas reporter, columnist and editorial writer.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Twenty-five tips for being a good writer of opinion pieces

  1. Jackie N says:

    Love this. Good for communicating verbally AND in writing. Thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s