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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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