op-ed: abbreviated from opposite the editorial page (though often mistaken for opinion-editorial), is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper’s editorial board. These are different from editorials (which are usually unsigned and written by editorial board members) and letters to the editor (which are submitted by readers of the journal or newspaper). [wikipedia. what would we do without them?]
I didn’t go to op-ed writing school. nor did I attend journalism school, nor do I have an MFA. my business undergrad gave me one semester of business writing, and my life path has served up numerous courses and workshops dedicated to the craft of writing . . . and then there are those years and years of just writing and writing and reading and writing and reading.
but I don’t read op-eds. I’ve never studied them; I’ve not practiced writing one.
the publisher I’m working with has asked me to start getting my name out there, and to write an op-ed piece on our subject matter. (which I’ll go into more in a future post.) so . . . I’m working on crafting an op-ed piece. yikes!!
I thought about attacking it as I would a blog post: a brief essay with (hopefully) some kind of narrative arc or structure that contains and guides and takes the reader from point a to point b. I think this could work.
I also thought about attacking as a journalist might: the who, what, where, why and when of it all. then I remembered why I’m not a journalist and don’t seem to want to write like one.
then I thought about putting it away until I learned what I was doing, possibly researching how one writes an effective op-ed piece. and what I learned is this:
it should be a strong argument about about an issue in the news. it should be spirited, provocative, highly opinionated, and easy to read (courant). they should be timely, brief, written by someone with expertise, and have a call to action (msu). it should be (I like this one) jargon-free (wsj). it should be about twice as long as what I’ve already written here.
so . . . I guess I’m going to practice. I can do the spirited part, and I’m certainly capable of being opinionated. I know my call to action. I’m excellent at using jargon-free language. and I’m working on the expertise thing. all in all, it’s feeling a lot like a truly excellent blog post, like a blog post I actually work on, tweak and nurture and shave, before I press the “publish” button.
it’s good to add new tricks to our bags. who wants to be pigeonholed as someone who can only do one thing? not me. people ask me what I write and I respond, everything. and soon, my “everything” will include excellent op-ed pieces. just watch me go. and why don’t you join me?