Characteristics of Genre:
Task: To write a brief 600-800 word article in which you share your opinion by explaining your views on an issue, persuading others to take action, criticizing how an organization or individual has handled something, or praising an individual or organization for their accomplishments.
- Share your views
- Persuade others to take action on an issue
- Criticize how an organization or individual has handled something
- Praise an individual or organization for their accomplishments
- Editorials are usually published in newspapers, either in print or online, so newspaper readers is a primary audience
- Anyone who might need to know about the issue you wrote about
- Anyone who is capable of taking action on your issue (Ex: People who might be willing to sign a petition)
- Shorter piece – 600-800 words max
- Keep your language short, punchy, and impactful
- Writing style is usually informal but not casual; shorter sentences and more fact-based writing
- However, some longer pieces can be more casual in tone
- Avoid “jargon” and technical language; an editorial should be easily understandable by all readers
- As with argument writing, make sure all of your evidence is strong, highly relevant, accurate, engaging, and comes from unbiased and reliable sources
- Generally, four types of editorials:
- Explaining or interpreting: This format is used to explain how and why a newspaper or magazine took a certain stance on a controversial subject.
- Criticizing: This format criticizes actions or decisions made on a third party’s part in addition to offering a better solution. It’s more to get the readers to see that there is a larger problem at hand.
- Persuading: This type is used to move the reader to action, concentrating on solutions, not the problem.
- Praising: This format is used to show support for people and organizations in the community that have done something notable.
1. Start off with a strong claim or thesis, similar to argument writing
2. Then, provide a brief objective (unbiased) explanation of your issue in a short paragraph
- Even though you are taking a clear side on this issue, people respect your opinion more if you give them a chance to consider just the facts first
- Starting off right away with strong opinions makes you appear highly biased and therefore calls your information/ evidence into question for the reader
3. Present the opposing side first, also in an objective way, so people understand what both sides of your issue are
- Again, let the reader have just the facts first, before you show them why your side is the right side of the issue
- People need to understand all the individuals or groups involved in this issue to understand the rest of the argument
4. Then, provide strong pieces of evidence and reason as to why the opposing side is wrong
- You can add your own opinions here in addition to the opinions of others
- Make sure you clearly come down on one side of the argument so readers know clearly what your view is
- You can use the same persuasive techniques and rhetorical devices employed in argument writing
- You have a limited word space – make sure you are using the strongest possible evidence
- If you are writing an editorial praising a notable accomplishment, there may not necessarily be an opposing side. Here you could talk about adversity or roadblocks your notable person or organization faced and how they were overcome. You could also talk about the impact this person/ organization has made on the community.
5. Provide a solution to the problem; this is also known as your call to action. In your opinion, what can be done to solve or fix this issue?
- Solution should be specific, rational/ logical, actually doable, and engaging to the reader
- Your evidence against the opposing side should inspire the reader to want to take action by the time they get here
- If you are writing an editorial praising a notable accomplishment, a call to action could simply be encouraging your readership to learn from the example of the person/ organization you are praising (i.e., if you are praising one’s charity work, encourage your readers to get involved with a specific local charity)
6. Also similar to argument writing, end your piece with a bang, something the reader will remember as they walk away
- End with a hard-hitting summary of the issue, and some sort of persuasive technique or rhetorical device
- Rhetorical questions can be a powerful way to end an editorial (“If we don’t act now to clean up the environment, what are we leaving our children?” “How much longer can we afford to let this problem go on?”)
- Ethos (playing on the reader’s emotions) is also powerful right at the end (“If we don’t act now to clean up the environment, our children and grandchildren will suffer the horrible consequences.”)
- Fine Arts by Jess, Seventh Grader – “The use of an authority’s quotation [ethos] to open this editorial lends credibility to the writer’s opinion. Seventh-grader Jess backs up her position in subsequent paragraphs.” Jess does not introduce or use any counterclaims in her piece, but this is a great example of how to elaborate on the various points of your argument, and how to use different rhetorical devices.
- Hang Up and Drive by Jessie, Eighth Grader – “A surprise comparison opens this editorial by eighth grade student Jessie, drawing readers in. Her position on the subject becomes evident early in the essay.” Jessie’s counterclaim comes all the way at the end, and is only a sentence, but again a great example of rhetorical devices and persuasive techniques. By starting with a relatable experience anecdote right at the beginning, Jessie’s reader already feels connected to this piece.
- Summer: 15 Days or 2 1/2 Months? by Jordan, Seventh Grader – “Jordan wants to have a nice, long summer at the end of seventh grade; her persuasive essay makes that quite evident with several points that support her opinion through the use of statistics, comparison, and expert testimony.” Jordan totally nails starting off with that counterclaim in her second paragraph and then dismantling that argument while building up her own. Strong evidence is used to support her claim.
- The Noise by Stephen Curry, The Players’ Tribune – A longer, more informal/ conversational editorial in which Curry discusses kneeling for the anthem, respecting veterans, and living your truth despite the opinions of others.
- School Should Be About Learning, Not Sports by Amanda Ripley, The New York Times – An editorial in which Ripley argues with observational data that American high schools are more sports-obsessed than other high schools, and that this gets in the way of learning.
- Depressed, But Not Ashamed by Madeline Halpert and Eva Rosenfeld, The New York Times – Two high school journalists discuss the difficult fight to speak out and end stigma against mental illnesses like depression.
- Coming Soon