An opinion article, as the name suggests, is an article where you express your opinion on an issue. It is different from an essay in that it deals usually with issues being reported in the news and is written in your own unique tone. Unlike the research paper variant of the essay, it also is briefer and has a clear point of view.
Sure, social media allows us to express opinions like never before, but if you are looking for a larger audience, an opinion article is the solution you are looking for. But this solution also comes with its requirements. Not all opinion articles get noticed or influence other people. If you are looking to write one, it helps to have some tools in hand, especially if you are just beginning to write. Here then are some easy steps to guide you through writing an opinion article:
If you check the length of an article before deciding to read it, you know what I am talking about. With reducing attention spans, you have to be careful about the space you use and what you do with it.
It makes sense in an opinion article to make those one or two arguments that you can persuasively put forward, and deal with them at length. Making a specific argument isn’t limited to finding a specific logic though. It can also include things like a specific location or identity. If you are in an inter-religious relationship, what you have to say about ‘love-jihad’ is important when the subject is being debated.
Even in an opinion article, you must try to offer something new. If you are going to tell people that ‘violence is bad’, there is little incentive for anybody to read on. This is because they have heard this argument earlier, and quite a few times too.
Such new arguments and opinions can range from ‘If you look at these numbers, you will get a new perspective on violence’, to ‘I don’t think surgical strikes can end terrorism’. The former makes a new argument through overlooked data, while the latter brings an opinion that is not intuitive.
Similarly, you can look for a specific incident, nuggets from history, and so on. The lesser known or discussed an opinion or argument is, the more likely it is to interest a potential reader.
A reader decides to read the article after reading a title. If you want them to read beyond that, you must make them care about what you have to say. The opening paragraphs or the introduction is one area where you perform this manoeuvre.
For example, do you know of a way in which the issue you are discussing will affect a potential reader? You can draw the attention of the reader to that outcome to make them care about your article. Is there an anecdote relevant to a debate that few people will know? It’s good to put it up front.
You also need to tell the reader what new perspective you are bringing to the table early on. It is a good practice to introduce your reader to the specific argument you are going to make in the introduction or immediately after it.
Whether it is an emotional argument or a factual one, it becomes convincing only when you explain it. Repeating a statement will only convince those who already believe in it. I structure my arguments usually by first stating what my argument is, then following it up with my reasons. And finally, if possible, I give an example to demonstrate my argument.
You are not writing a news report showing the existence of a problem. The article is your opinion on the issue. So feel free to offer recommendations or solutions that can solve the problem that you are highlighting.
Everybody has an opinion once a debate starts. If you have distinguished your opinion by following the above steps, it is important that you also convey your opinion to every reader effectively. So avoid jargon.
It is okay for the Delhi High Court to say: “Any provision of Territorial Army Act barring recruitment of women is ultra vires the Constitution.” You are probably better off saying: “Any provision of Territorial Army Act that bars the recruitment of women is unconstitutional.”
Using active voice is another way in which you can reduce strain for the reader. Here’s an example:
Passive voice: Students were arrested by the police immediately afterwards.
Active voice: The police arrested the students immediately afterwards.
If you are offering solutions to a problem at the end of your article, you are already close to summing up what you have argued throughout the article. If you can finish this off with a polished small paragraph that sticks in the mind of the reader, you will have made an impression on them. There are no fixed ways of doing this, but if you can distil everything you have said in the article in as few words as possible, we can say that you have succeeded.
There will always be that opinion article that breaks these rules. But if you are just beginning to write, write routinely, or are writing on a tight deadline, these tools should be useful. Happy writing!