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The Op-Ed Theory and Practice September 10, 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "The Op-Ed Theory and Practice September 10, 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Op-Ed Theory and Practice September 10, 2007

2 Why Do Op-Eds Matter? -- Nobody in the policy world reads books or journals --Everybody in the policy world reads the newspapers

3 Why Do Op-Eds Matter? --24/7 newscycle --200 entertainment options per household --intense competition in the info and entertainment business -- Nobody will sit still to read more than 750 words --750 words make you a policy expert

4 Why Do Op-Eds Matter? Your control the content. Not true in a Radio or TV setting, unless you are buying the time (very expensive) You have the ability to reach a wide variety of individuals You have the ability to reach them all at the same time

5 Why do Op-Eds matter? --It’s how the Government communicates with itself --Opportunity to win support outside your own agency, find allies --Opportunity to build public support

6 Sparking Public Debate --Electronic media routinely take their cue from print journalism --Key arguments of an Op-Ed work very well in a Radio or TV format

7 What Makes a Good Op-Ed? --One central argument --At least 3 reasons in support of your argument --Identifying the counter- argument(s) and putting them to rest --Why the world is a better place if your argument prevails

8 What Makes a Good Op-Ed? --Taking on a new topic --Taking on an old topic with a fresh perspective --Identifying a missing perspective --Taking on the conventional wisdom --Powerful personal story

9 What Makes a Good Op-Ed? Making sure the reader wants to read to the end –Clarity. You don’t ever want the reader to linger over a word or phrase because it is confusing or ambiguous. –Arguments and images that are memorable –Simplicity –Accessibility

10 How to Write an Op-Ed The Lede –Your first paragraph must make your point –No guarantee that the reader will get beyond the first paragraph –The only exception to the first paragraph rule is if you have a compelling story for your first paragraph to hook the reader

11 The Middle --Each paragraph must build in progression, logically following the previous paragraph. --Every paragraph must make a separate point

12 The Ending Recapitulate your argument Always end on a high note – why the world is a better place if your policy is adopted. Always end on a word with positive associations, as appropriate-- peace, justice, freedom, equality, opportunity, hope, success (etc.) Use, if you can, contrasts (“antithesis”) in your closing arguments: dark/light; war/peace; fear/hope; failure/success (etc.)

13 Techniques to Use Short paragraphs – one point per paragraph Short sentences – Noun, Verb; Noun Verb Noun. Simple words: Anglo-Saxon words are better than Latinate words.

14 Techniques to Use Storytelling is a plus. Parables work, and the reader will remember them. Short anecdotes with which the reader can immediately identify. Analogies that are easy to grasp.

15 Techniques to Avoid Long Paragraphs. If its more than 3 sentences, review the paragraph. If it is more than five sentences, break into separate paragraphs or edit into a shorter paragraph. Long sentences. If you have a sentence with dependent clauses, rewrite the sentence and make it shorter and simpler. Long words. If its more than three syllables, think about a shorter word.

16 Techniques to Avoid Avoid Acronyms. If it is not FBI, CIA or UN, spell it out or drop it. Avoid jargon. The worst possible sin in the world of Op-Eds. The reader doesn’t know what you are talking about. Avoid SAT words. Confuses the reader, and creates a distance between the author and reader.

17 Techniques to Avoid Personal attacks Defensive statements Complaining and whining If you want to make a devastating attack on a policy (or person), recount a story, or use a quote. Your own voice should be used exclusively on behalf of the policy solution (“making the world a better place”).

18 Techniques to Use Sparingly Quotes. At most, one quotation per article – if and only if it is particularly attention-getting and appropriate. You only want to use a quote if it uniquely underscores the point you want to make. Facts. A few strategically placed facts help your piece. Too many make it wonky and leaden. Numbers – a few are good. But too many numbers are numbing.

19 Techniques to Use Sparingly Alliteration. In key sentences, can help to make your arguments memorable. Too much makes your piece comic. Inverted word order (“anastrophe”) Too much makes you sound like Yoda. Repetition in structure. Can help build rhythm in your presentation. Never repeat content, except recapitulation in the closing paragraph.

20 Get a Second Opinion Ask your friends or roommates to read it. If they don’t understand what you’re talking about, the reader won’t either.

21 Always Edit After you finish a draft, set aside for a few hours. Come back and re-read and re-edit Even after you think you are done, every good Op-Ed can be made better by cutting 5 to 10%. Op-Eds are seldom made better by adding material. (Substituting yes, adding no).

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