Characteristics of Persuasive Editorial Writing

You’re probably familiar with the editorials in your daily paper. Unlike news reports, editorial pieces include the opinions of the writer on the topic. While the facts surrounding the topic must be accurate, editorial writing provides an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of differing opinions.

For example, if there are a growing number of homeless people in a community, this is a subject which would be of interest to many people. While a news story might cover a fund raising event for the homeless, the editorial writing piece would recount the basic facts, but with the major focus on what might be done about the situation.

Whereas the news report simply states the facts, the editorial piece would explore some of the possible solutions and how the rest of the community might get involved. When you write an editorial, you’re inviting input from your readers and attempting to persuade them to your point of view.

The best topics for an editorial piece are those which concern issues that are currently ‘in the news’ and resonate in the community, with your readers on both sides of the controversy. Other good topics for an editorial include major events which, while not current, still evoke emotional responses and which remain unresolved.

Examples include the 9/11 tragedy, the Katrina disaster and long ago events, such as Pearl Harbor. Such editorial writing is effective when published on the anniversary of that week, when your readers are thinking about or commemorating the event.

Editorial writing, while imbued with your personal opinions, does not give you a license to simply rant with an emotionally charged agenda or compromise facts. You should research several journalistic pieces before you begin.

Surveying a number of news stories will provide a variety of facts you won’t find in a single report. This gives you an edge in presenting your case in the most persuasive manner.

For example, if you’re editorial writing piece concerns the Katrina disaster, your survey of news stories written at the time may bring up one that states that the affected area was equal to the size of the U.K., a fact that wasn’t well publicized at the time, but serves to underline the magnitude and number of people affected.

Another news story may reveal the incompetence of FEMA in their failure to provide trailers to displaced people, although thousands were ‘warehoused’ in nearby locations for just such an event. The typical news story presents facts which occurred that day or week.

Doing your research for your editorial with an eye to collecting the most salient facts which support your point of view gives you and your readers a solid and persuasive argument, which obviously strengthens the piece and proves most engaging to your audience.

Good editorial writing is therefore, a mix of journalism and opinion. An understanding of rhetoric is essential to a powerful editorial that gets people thinking.

Consider the difference between the following two sentences: “While you and I may be sitting at the kitchen table, warm and comfortable and not in fear of losing our homes or paying for the power bill, there are thousands of individuals and families who are now homeless, cannot even afford to buy this newspaper and are in jeopardy of freezing or starving.”

Now look at the second possible sentence, essentially saying the same thing, but unlikely to give the reader pause to think further on the issue. “The plight of the homeless is something that concerns all of us as a society.”

A good piece of editorial writing paints a more graphic picture of the consequences and touches the consciousness of your readers in a way that’s hard to dismiss. So another key to a successful editorial is getting your readers involved emotionally, but without an aggressive, angry tone. This turns readers off.

Encourage the reader to become more involved, using links to resources which will shed further light on your topic. Be careful to avoid naming specific individuals or organizations which may be construed as libelous or outright slander. The major goal of editorial writing is to get your readers thinking, involved and spur them to take action.

So, if you’ve got a burning passion to write an editorial, follow these basics and get to writing! You may be surprised at the response that streams in and be able to make a difference in the lives of many people!