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How to Write an Editorial

Abhijit Naik Feb 28, 2020
The task of writing an editorial is like treading on thin ice; a small mistake and your credibility is lost even before you realize it. Which is why it becomes very important to understand what an editorial is all about.
An editorial is an article or write-up written by the senior editorial staff of a newspaper/magazine with the intention of voicing their opinion or perspective on important issues pertaining to society. It can be an opinion that is written from any point of view, but it is mandatory that it be backed by sufficient facts.
An editorial can be used to raise questions about various issues and suggest measures to solve them. It can be used to praise, defend, compliment, or criticize individuals and organizations for their deeds, as well as for endorsing ideas, instigating a thought process, and so on.
An editorial reflects the stand taken by the newspaper as an organization. If the editorial board doesn't have an opinion, the editorial will be reduced to a news story which evaluates both sides of the issue in question.

A Few Things You Need to Know about Writing an Editorial

Your stand on a particular issue and facts to support it - this forms the basis of an editorial and therefore, you--as a writer--are expected to collect facts and analyze them thoroughly to form a specific point of view. Explained here, is the process of writing a factual editorial and presenting it as an interesting read for your readers.

Choose the Right Topic

Choosing the topic is one of the most important parts of editorial writing. You should ideally choose a topic pertaining to some current issue. Readers will be more interested in reading an editorial titled the 'Impact of Recession on World Economy' than reading one that's titled 'Recession in the 1980s'.
Data from the past, like the information about recession of the 80s-in this particular case, can be used as a reference to help readers get a good understanding of the issue by comparing it with the situation in the past. The topic you choose need not be a controversial one, unless, that happens to be your exact motive behind writing the editorial.

Take a Stance

The basic difference between a news article and an editorial is the writer's opinion. In a news article, as a writer, you are expected to cover the facts from both sides. In an editorial, on the other hand, you can give your own opinion as long as it is backed by facts and evidence.
After choosing a topic, you have to take a stance as to whether you are for it or against it. A vague opinion, which is not well researched, will have no takers and hence, you need to back your opinion with some strong facts and statistics. Being well-versed with the said issue is a definite advantage in this case.

Prepare an Outline

Well prepared, they say, is half done. Now that's one rule which applies to almost everything you do. In this case, you have to be well-versed with the content and layout of your write-up before you begin writing your editorial. Preparing an outline will give you a rough idea as to how you should go about it.
You need to make sure that you have the necessary facts and evidence to support your arguments. Simple things, like accurate statistics, pertinent quotes of eminent personalities, and/or valid examples from the past, can boost the credibility of your editorial.

The Writing Part

Make sure that you choose a catchy headline, which will grab the attention of the readers from the word go.
You can either start the introductory paragraph by putting forth your stance, or begin with a brief on the point of view you intend to refute and build up on your stance as you progress; ideally from the second paragraph onwards.
First person voice does lend credibility to the editorial, but the use of first-person singular is best avoided; instead of "I", you can use 'we'. There is no substitute to research; being the most important attribute of an editorial, it has to be given due respect.
You should keep the paragraphs brief and to the point. Your editorial should have at least three arguments, each backed by strong facts, statistical data, and examples from the past, and yet, it should not become too long.
But obviously, the length of the article will depend on the topic you choose and what you have to say about it. While there is no rule of the thumb as such, somewhere around 600 words should be sufficient.
When presenting arguments, you should ideally keep your strongest argument for the last. That, however, doesn't mean you can go soft in the middle.
The trick is to use your arguments to build up the reader's anxiety and nail your point with the final argument. The conclusion of your editorial should provide a brief account of your opinion and--more importantly--either offer a solution, or trigger a thought process.

3 Cardinal Sins of Editorial Writing

» Inadequate research
» Outdated statistics
» Preaching

Generally well-written editorials are ones with ample facts to support the writer's view. If the topic is interesting, your editorial can become quite long.
That, however, is no measure of good work. Some of the best editorials are concise and yet, highly successful in making a strong point. This largely depends on the writing skills of the writer, and that's something which only gets better with time.

Post Script

Though an editorial is generally written by the senior editorial staff in a newspaper, or magazine, one doesn't necessarily have to be an aspiring journalist to get well-versed with the art of writing it. This knowledge can be of great help for students and those individuals who are keen on blogging and freelance writing.