Saturday, January 08, 2005

Opinion writing tips from USA Today

"I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork."-- Peter De Vries

I found these opinion writing tips on a USA Today website for writers.

Writing the USA TODAY way:
Find out the length and write to the length.
Focus on one major theme.
Be selective. Omit unnecessary words. Use an economy of words with a wealth of information.
Provide only the background that is necessary.
Use specifics, not generalizations.
Use everyday language. Talk to the reader without flowery language or technical jargon.
Use strong verbs to tell a story. Verbs are the most forceful parts of speech.
Use grammar to propel a story. Be selective with the quotes used. Condense them when possible.
Make the most important points first.
Rewrite and edit ruthlessly. Use brevity and clarity.
Writing Checklist:
___ Does the story focus on one major theme? What is it? ___ Are the quotes selective? Could some be condensed?___ Are there institutional titles or attributions that could be eliminated? ___ Where is the context? Is there enough or too much? ___ Are specifics used in describing things? ___ Are everyday language and strong verbs used? ___ Does the grammar propel the story?
Good Op-Ed Articles:
Tell the reader why they should read it. Answer "why now?" and "so what?"questions in the first part of the article.
Take the understanding of the issue to the next step. Do not simply repeat information that has already been presented in the newspaper, build on that information to make an interesting and insightful point that the reader has not reached on their own.
Make a point. Both sides can be expressed but a good piece helps a reader reach a conclusion.Do the research. Good opinion writing requires a lot of research and good examples, even quotes to back up the opinion. It is not off the top of your head writing.
Follow an outline. Easy to follow opinion writing has a clear and identifiable structure that states the problem and builds through example to the author's opinion. Unstructured writing is difficult for readers to follow.
Are clear and concise. Adjectives and flourishes should be avoided as they only clutter the message. Impress readers with your ability to say something clearly, not with your frequent use of a thesaurus.
Do not ignore the other side of the issue. Some of the most powerful opinion writing take son the arguments of the other side and knocks it down.
Tell a story (if appropriate.) Good storytelling draws readers into and issue. But too much story and few facts do not make a point. Stories at the beginning of a piece should quickly lead to the point.
Defy conventional wisdom. Some of the most interesting opinion writing takes on commonly held beliefs and shows them to be wrong.


At 1:40 PM, Blogger Emily Kornegay said...

Thanks! Appreciate the advice. I'm sure I will refer back to it as I write my pieces.


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