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The Op-Ed. Theory and Practice September 10, 2007. Why Do Op-Eds Matter?. -- Nobody in the policy world reads books or journals --Everybody in the policy world reads the newspapers. Why Do Op-Eds Matter?. --24/7 newscycle --200 entertainment options per household

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The op ed

The Op-Ed

Theory and Practice

September 10, 2007


Why do op eds matter

Why Do Op-Eds Matter?

-- Nobody in the policy world reads books or journals

--Everybody in the policy world reads the newspapers


Why do op eds matter1

Why Do Op-Eds Matter?

--24/7 newscycle

--200 entertainment options per household

--intense competition in the info and entertainment business

-- Nobody will sit still to read more than 750 words

--750 words make you a policy expert


Why do op eds matter2

Why Do Op-Eds Matter?

  • Your control the content. Not true in a Radio or TV setting, unless you are buying the time (very expensive)

  • You have the ability to reach a wide variety of individuals

  • You have the ability to reach them all at the same time


Why do op eds matter3

Why do Op-Eds matter?

--It’s how the Government communicates with itself

--Opportunity to win support outside your own agency, find allies

--Opportunity to build public support


Sparking public debate

Sparking Public Debate

--Electronic media routinely take their cue from print journalism

--Key arguments of an Op-Ed work very well in a Radio or TV format


What makes a good op ed

What Makes a Good Op-Ed?

--One central argument

--At least 3 reasons in support of your argument

--Identifying the counter- argument(s) and putting them to rest

--Why the world is a better place if your argument prevails


What makes a good op ed1

What Makes a Good Op-Ed?

--Taking on a new topic

--Taking on an old topic with a fresh perspective

--Identifying a missing perspective

--Taking on the conventional wisdom

--Powerful personal story


What makes a good op ed2

What Makes a Good Op-Ed?

  • Making sure the reader wants to read to the end

    • Clarity. You don’t ever want the reader to linger over a word or phrase because it is confusing or ambiguous.

    • Arguments and images that are memorable

    • Simplicity

    • Accessibility


How to write an op ed

How to Write an Op-Ed

  • The Lede

    • Your first paragraph must make your point

    • No guarantee that the reader will get beyond the first paragraph

    • The only exception to the first paragraph rule is if you have a compelling story for your first paragraph to hook the reader


The middle

The Middle

--Each paragraph must build in progression, logically following the previous paragraph.

--Every paragraph must make a separate point


The ending

The Ending

  • Recapitulate your argument

  • Always end on a high note – why the world is a better place if your policy is adopted.

  • Always end on a word with positive associations, as appropriate-- peace, justice, freedom, equality, opportunity, hope, success (etc.)

  • Use, if you can, contrasts (“antithesis”) in your closing arguments: dark/light; war/peace; fear/hope; failure/success (etc.)


Techniques to use

Techniques to Use

  • Short paragraphs – one point per paragraph

  • Short sentences – Noun, Verb; Noun Verb Noun.

  • Simple words: Anglo-Saxon words are better than Latinate words.


Techniques to use1

Techniques to Use

  • Storytelling is a plus. Parables work, and the reader will remember them.

  • Short anecdotes with which the reader can immediately identify.

  • Analogies that are easy to grasp.


Techniques to avoid

Techniques to Avoid

  • Long Paragraphs. If its more than 3 sentences, review the paragraph. If it is more than five sentences, break into separate paragraphs or edit into a shorter paragraph.

  • Long sentences. If you have a sentence with dependent clauses, rewrite the sentence and make it shorter and simpler.

  • Long words. If its more than three syllables, think about a shorter word.


Techniques to avoid1

Techniques to Avoid

  • Avoid Acronyms. If it is not FBI, CIA or UN, spell it out or drop it.

  • Avoid jargon. The worst possible sin in the world of Op-Eds. The reader doesn’t know what you are talking about.

  • Avoid SAT words. Confuses the reader, and creates a distance between the author and reader.


Techniques to avoid2

Techniques to Avoid

  • Personal attacks

  • Defensive statements

  • Complaining and whining

  • If you want to make a devastating attack on a policy (or person), recount a story, or use a quote. Your own voice should be used exclusively on behalf of the policy solution (“making the world a better place”).


Techniques to use sparingly

Techniques to Use Sparingly

  • Quotes. At most, one quotation per article – if and only if it is particularly attention-getting and appropriate. You only want to use a quote if it uniquely underscores the point you want to make.

  • Facts. A few strategically placed facts help your piece. Too many make it wonky and leaden.

  • Numbers – a few are good. But too many numbers are numbing.


Techniques to use sparingly1

Techniques to Use Sparingly

  • Alliteration. In key sentences, can help to make your arguments memorable. Too much makes your piece comic.

  • Inverted word order (“anastrophe”) Too much makes you sound like Yoda.

  • Repetition in structure. Can help build rhythm in your presentation. Never repeat content, except recapitulation in the closing paragraph.


Get a second opinion

Get a Second Opinion

  • Ask your friends or roommates to read it.

  • If they don’t understand what you’re talking about, the reader won’t either.


Always edit

Always Edit

  • After you finish a draft, set aside for a few hours.

  • Come back and re-read and re-edit

  • Even after you think you are done, every good Op-Ed can be made better by cutting 5 to 10%.

  • Op-Eds are seldom made better by adding material. (Substituting yes, adding no).


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