You are writing an Op-Ed (“Opinion piece” or “Opposite the Editorial” page) for a newspaper or journal on an issue related to America & the Middle East. Your Op-Ed should convince your reader why your position on your issue is correct, and defend against opposition arguments.
An Op-Ed – in contrast to a research paper – should be persuasive in tone, is usually aimed at a public audience (general public or policy makers), is short and direct, and draws from a range of arguments including ethos (personal anecdotes, success stories, historical narratives), logos (facts, figures, data, research findings), and pathos (emotion).
Writing an Op-Ed:
Plan your MESSAGE. Be specific! Try to avoid taking too broad a subject (e.g. “provide humanitarian assistance to refugees”) and narrow the message down (e.g. “encourage long-term housing projects on the Jordanian border for Syrian refugees”).
Explain the STAKESfor your issue. Make the reader care.
Be CLEAR. Avoid jargo Big words and lots of statistics do not always score more points; they tend to lose the reader.
Use appropriate WORDING. Humor may be appropriate, humanize your cause, and catch the reader’s attention.
Stay POSITIVE; avoid negative TONEthat alienates readers (e.g. “the opposition are deplorable”) in favor of positive phrasing (e.g. “the opposition have missed fact X and therefore draw wrong conclusion Y”). Do not offend. No personal attacks. An Op-Ed can be forceful without being nasty.
Make a range of ARGUMENTS, and tailor them for your audience. The American public is more likely to respond to ethosor pathos arguments, while military officers may respond better to logos A combination of arguments is ideal. Convince your reader.
Anticipate counter arguments and include a PRE-BUTTAL, i.e., a REBUTTALin anticipation of the counter-argument. This strengthens your arguments by preemptively responding to critiques and will get you to think through your position more thoroughly.
Offer readers ACTIONITEMSwhen possible. Tailor these action items for the audience (e.g. a rally in D.C. against the use of drones if you are writing to the American public; or for Congress, propose more oversight against Presidential abuse of authority).
Be BRIEF. Give enough detail without being wordy. Most common excess words are adjectives and repetitive sentences. Word count will be graded strictly – one major skill that will be developed in this class is writing concisely without losing detail!
Keep your paper ORGANIZED. Your paper should be clearly structured with an introduction that captures the reader’s attention; a briefbackground of your issue; a coherent list of arguments for why your position is best; and a conclusion that solidifies your stance. Maintain a coherent narrative. An Op-Ed will not have a references section, but may have footnotes citing controversial facts.
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