How to Write a Strong Opinion Piece

    Opinion piece

    If you have something important to say on your blog on any  hot or controversial topic, one of the best ways to gain credible visibility and recognition for your ideas is to develop a strongly focused opinion piece, known in the newspaper trade as an “op-ed”.

    Easier said than done.

    Your fiery opinion, supported by facts, can make your case. An op-ed is not an essay, something that unrolls slowly like a carpet, building momentum to some point or conclusion. It is the opposite.

    In an op-ed for either your blog or as a guest editorial in a newspaper, the rules are the same: You essentially state your conclusion first.

    You make your strongest point up front, and then spend the rest of the op-ed making your argument, back-filling with the facts.

    Done right, it is persuasive writing at its best.

    By tackling an important topic of the day, you will be reaching not only your regular readers but also perhaps an elite audience of opinion-makers.

    Here’s a checklist to keep your opinion piece on track:

    • Focus tightly on one issue or idea — in your first paragraph. Be brief.
    • Express your opinion, and then base it on factual, researched or first-hand information.
    • Be timely, controversial, but not outrageous. Be the voice of reason.
    • Be personal and conversational; it can help you make your point. No one likes a stuffed shirt.
    • Be humorous, provided that your topic lends itself to humor. Irony can also be effective.
    • Have a clear editorial viewpoint – come down hard on one side of the issue. Don’t equivocate.
    • Provide insight, understanding: educate your reader without being preachy.
    • Near the end, clearly re-state your position and issue a call to action. Don’t philosophize.
    • Have verve, and “fire in the gut” indignation to accompany your logical analysis.
    • Don’t ramble or let your op-ed unfold slowly, as in an essay.
    • Use clear, powerful, direct language.
    • Emphasize active verbs, forget adjectives and adverbs, which only weaken writing.
    • Avoid clichés and jargon.
    • Appeal to the average reader. Clarity is paramount.
    • Write 750 double-spaced words or less (fewer is always better) for newspapers, but your piece can go longer for your blog. But remember, shorter is always better.
    • Include a brief bio, along with your phone number, email address, and mailing address at the bottom if your article goes to a newspaper.


    Most major newspapers today accept timely op-eds by email. Check the paper’s website first to be sure what its policy is. While it’s tempting to fire off your op-ed to The New York Times, remember that there are many other major newspapers to consider. The New York Times receives more op-eds daily than any other paper in the US, so competition there is fierce. It’s better to be published in another excellent paper than to be not published in The New York Times.

    Here is an example of a recent op-ed I wrote for The Seattle Times.

    About the author:

    John McLain is author of How to Promote Your Home Business and a novel titled, The Reckoning, both available at His screenplay based on his novel was a finalist in the Writer’s Digest International Writing Competition. He has been a newspaper reporter on major dailies, an ad copywriter, and magazine editor.


    About the author

      Jon Bard

    • Danny Rand says:

      To begin with, one has to understand what editorial stands for. It is a newspaper article that tends to contain and explain author’s ideas. This piece of writing can be on any topic, but, as statistics show, most often it deals with social issues. Just like in your research paper, you have to provide enough credible evidence to support your opinion.
      Detailed research has to be conducted ahead to discover a particular point of view an author wishes to argue. An editorial must contain not only problems but possible solutions to them. For instance, when writing about the issue associated with obese population, the writer should end up giving specific recommendations on how to deal with this problem. Moreover, his message may be turned to both those who suffer from this disorder and healthcare professionals who have to handle it. Often, the authors speak to the local governments hoping to motivate them to act. As you can see, preparing an editorial has a lot in common with writing an essay or research paper. So, in case you were good at writing in your school, college, or university papers, it would make no problem for you to come up with any writing piece, including an interesting editorial.

    • That is a VERY good opinion peice I am going to try to write an opinion peice with all of the steps YOU used!!🤔

    • MAY says:

      Nice tips, just what I needed to start writing opinion pieces

    • Carmelo says:

      Nice idea and advice …. just wondering, however: The piece started as a suggestion for our blog (title and opening) and then seemed to proceed with instructions for an op-ed piece for a newspaper. It never really concluded by saying how this would be used on the blog.

      Just another blog post? Featured in some way? Help!

    • This reminds me of how we teach persuasive writing at the k-12 and college level for traditional academic essays. Not that it’s effective because we teach it, but we teach it because it’s effective. State your strong opinion (thesis statement) by the end of the first paragraph, give benchmarks along the way, and reiterate it in the last paragraph.

      Thanks for the perspective.

    • Thank you for contributing this guest post: I really enjoyed reading it.

      It depends.

      Shorter is not always better. As a writer, you need to read the guidelines of your publication.

      There are short op-ed pieces and there are longer ones.

      Your write-up also needs to be aligned to your target audience.

      Writing an article for a blog is different from writing an article for a major newspaper.

      Newspapers have been around far longer than the internet, so it is a different ball-game.

      What works well in one medium may not work in another medium, so you really need to research your market.

      It can help to read a few copies of your newspaper or blog or whatever is your target audience.

      After that, you need to pitch the editor and run your idea through the “gate-keeping” process: it takes time and sometimes busy editors do not even respond. It takes persistence to get your ideas across.

      A face to face meeting with an editor can be the logical alternative if other forms of communication do not work.

      Otherwise, “apply, apply but no reply” can be a frustrating experience for any writer. Cheers.

    • Beth Havey says:

      Great piece. Many blogs would lend themselves to this format. And challenging writing skills to perfect a new format is always a growth experience. Thanks.

    • Jevon says:

      Interesting tips John. I’ll keep these in mind.

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