Op-Ed? Editorial? What do all these terms really mean?

Terms like op-ed can be confusing. let us explain them for you..

opinion essay vs editorial

You've probably heard the term op-ed a lot recently. The New York Times' decision to publish an anonymous op-ed from a "senior official" in the Trump administration pulled the term into the national spotlight.

The op-ed has left people, including the president, asking who wrote this? What was the author's motive? Why would the Times agree to withhold the author's name? They're all valid questions, and ones we may never get answers to.

But we know from social media and data from search providers that it also left many people asking, what is an op-ed? As journalists, we have a responsibility to ensure our readers understand the terms we use. 

Opinion sections publish several different types of content in the spirit of presenting a wide range of viewpoints and to encourage thoughtful debate. All of the different terms can get confusing. Here's a primer on all of the terms we use to describe content appearing in the Register's Opinion section.

What is an op-ed?

An op-ed, short for opposite editorial, is an opinionated article submitted to a newspaper for publication. They are written by members of the community, not newspaper employees.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines them as "an essay in a newspaper or magazine that gives the opinion of the writer and that is written by someone who is not employed by the newspaper or magazine."

In the Register, most op-eds are labeled as "Your Turn" or "Iowa View." They can also be called guest columns. Op-eds can range from public policy debates to first-person experiences. 

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HOW TO: Submit a guest essay

In recent weeks, we've published op-eds from Rob Tibbetts about how he didn't want his daughter Mollie's name used in immigration debates , advocates worried about how the Monsanto-Bayer merger will hurt farmers , a working mother on the need for the FAMILY Act to pass the U.S. Senate  and Vice President Mike Pence touting the country's economic success before a visit to Des Moines.

Op-eds give the Register's opinion pages the opportunity to present views we wouldn't normally be able to publish. Opinion Editor Kathie Obradovich and planning editor James Kramer sift through dozens of submissions each week to decide which op-eds are published.

What's an editorial?

An editorial is an opinion article that states the position of a publication's editorial board, which usually consists of top editors and opinion writers. At the Register, that board includes Obradovich, Executive Editor Carol Hunter, Editorial Writer Andie Dominick and retired Register staffers Richard Doak and Rox Laird. 

Recent editorials have questioned why Iowa's schools are suspending an increasing number of elementary students , advocated for making E-Verify mandatory as part of larger immigration reform  and challenged lawmakers to ensure the war against opioids didn't leave cancer patients in pain .

Andie Dominick was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for a selection of editorials on health care and the state's decision to privatize Medicaid. The Pulitzer Prize citation states that Dominick won "for examining in a clear, indignant voice, free of cliché or sentimentality, the damaging consequences for poor Iowa residents of privatizing the state’s administration of Medicaid." 

Dominick was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2014 for a series of editorials challenging Iowa's licensing laws that regulate occupations ranging from cosmetologists to dentists and often protect practitioners more than the public. The Register also won Pulitzer Prizes for editorial writing in 1956, 1943 and 1938.

RELATED: Why do newspapers still have editorials?

Here's how the New York Times describes its editorial board : "Their primary responsibility is to write The Times’s editorials, which represent the voice of the board, its editor and the publisher. The board is part of the Opinion department, which is operated separately from The Times’s newsroom, and includes the Letters to the Editor and Op-Ed sections."

The Register uses the same separation in its newsroom.

What's a column?

A column is an article that often — but not always — contains opinions. Op-eds can be a type of column. 

Columnists are often some of the most well-known names at a news organization. The Register's columnists include Rekha Basu (opinion), Iowa Columnist Courtney Crowder , Randy Peterson (Iowa State athletics), Chad Leistikow (Iowa athletics), Reader's Watchdog Lee Rood and Metro Columnist Daniel P. Finney . Obradovich was a political columnist before becoming opinion editor and continues to write columns . 

Though uncommon, reporters occasionally express opinions by writing columns about topics on their beat.

Columns can be personal stories, like when Crowder wrote about crying at an "American Idol" concert , or calls to action, like when Obradovich wrote about the need for politicians to address mental health care in Iowa .

In addition to its staff columnists, the Register publishes columns from contributor Joel Kurtinitis and syndicated columns from writers like Leonard Pitts, Marc A. Thiessen and John Kass.

What's a letter to the editor?

A letter to the editor is a shorter, usually opinionated article written by a reader who wants to share an opinion about something they've just read or seen.

You can submit your own letter at DesMoinesRegister.com/Letters .

Submissions should be short — 200 words or less is ideal — but they can be about the topic of a reader's choosing. They can share a political opinion, criticize something the Register published or thank a helpful stranger. 

All of these different types of content can be found on Opinion pages both online and in print of publications across the country.

Still left with questions?

As I wrote at the start of this article, it's up to journalists to ensure our readers understand the terms we use. If you're still unsure or you see another journalism term you don't understand, reach out to me and let's chat about it.

Brian Smith is the Register's engagement editor and served as a member of its editorial board from 2014-2017. He's a native Iowan and graduate of Iowa State University. Brian works with Register journalists to help them connect with Iowans through social media, events and more. Reach him at [email protected] , 515-284-8214, @SmithBM12  on Twitter or at Facebook.com/SmithBM12

— USA TODAY NETWORK's Ethan May contributed to this report.

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Opinion, news or editorial? Readers often can’t tell the difference.

Confusion about labeling and design fuel reader complaints that opinions, political agendas and bias are creeping into reporters’ work..

opinion essay vs editorial

In print, it’s fairly clear what’s an opinion piece and what’s a news article. Online, things aren’t so clear. Confusion fuels readers’ complaints that opinions, political agendas and bias are creeping into reporters’ work.

Research has shown that a lack of labeling can lead to reader confusion . In recent years, online news outlets have begun including the word “opinion” in bold text at the top of articles, sometimes highlighted in yellow or even directly in the headline.

“In our dream world, opinion content all begins with the word ‘opinion,’ a colon and then the headline, just to make it absolutely clear,” said Joy Mayer, founder and director of Trusting News, a nonprofit helping newsrooms earn trust and credibility. “It’s the only clear word to use.”

Though journalists may not realize it, other conventions use industry jargon, said Mayer. Readers don’t always know what “editorial” means, and the word itself has multiple uses. Generally speaking, an editorial is an opinionated column, but confusingly, the editorial department is the news department of a publication. (To further the confusion, Merriam-Webster defines editorial as “of or relating to an editor or editing.”) Similarly, some newspapers put the last name of the columnist at the front of a headline, but that practice is also occasionally used for sourcing.

Mayer said that journalists tend to fall back on conventions that have been in place for a long time.

“We often tend to really overestimate how close attention audiences are paying and audience interpretation of the page furniture that we put in place that we think signifies what kind of content they’re getting,” said Mayer.

Page furniture describes the design elements and packaging of an online article that help readers discern what they’re looking at. Damon Kiesow, Knight chair in digital editing and producing at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, calls these signals “affordances.”

“Affordances are cues that signal how the user should interact with a product. They should be clear,” said Kiesow, who is researching specific measures papers can take to combat this confusion. “We don’t need to make digital look visually more like print, but we need to understand what are those aspects of print that are communicating these signals and adapt those signals in whatever way is appropriate to digital.”

opinion essay vs editorial

(Graphic by Eliana Miller)

Kiesow believes labeling is an important first step, but it’s not enough — a well-designed door shouldn’t need a push-pull label. Designers and editors need to look at the issue from a human-centered design perspective and completely rethink the issue, he said.

His preliminary research shows that despite labeling, readers still find affordances confusing. This poor digital design imposes a large cognitive load on the consumer, who needs to make far more judgments when reading an article online about what to read and how to interpret stories.

“Readers are not going to pay for content if they feel like they’re doing all the work in the relationship,” Kiesow said. “By removing barriers to the news, removing barriers to understanding, removing barriers to usability, we make the product more valuable. Journalism is only half of the product; the user experience and the journey around the journalism is the other half the product, and that’s what we need to work on.”

Beyond labeling and page design, some opinion editors are actively trying to engage and educate their audiences on media literacy. At the Miami Herald, editorial page editor Nancy Ancrum writes to confused readers, explaining that columnists are, in fact, paid to opine. Meanwhile, at The Tennessean in Nashville, opinion and engagement director David Plazas makes videos interviewing opinion contributors about their pieces.

“I went to journalism school and I learned about all these labels, but if I weren’t a journalist, and I hadn’t had that experience, I might not make that distinction unless I was a daily reader,” said Plazas. “Especially when people are saturated with information in the digital landscape, we have to be very mindful of the fact that they may not notice that something’s an opinion or a sports story.”

MORE FROM POYNTER: News Literacy Primer: How to Evaluate Information

In print, opinion columns are always at the back of the paper’s first section, editorials are typically on the left-hand side of one of the last pages and there might be an editorial cartoon or two as well. Print readers often pay for a delivery subscription for one or maybe two papers and they’re familiar with their papers’ design.

Online readers are not as loyal. They may visit a news outlet’s website only once or twice and thus aren’t familiar with the paper’s conventions and labels.

“These readers need a much more distinct, strong, clear, unavoidable signal (online) that this is an opinion content,” said Kiesow.

Mayer emphasized that page furniture is lost when someone comes to an article online through search or social media. Layout changes as stories move from one platform to another, too; an article’s presentation on a phone is different from its presentation on a computer screen. She suggested adding explainers at the top of articles or pop-up boxes defining terms like “opinion,” “editorial” and “letter to the editor.”

“Pixels on a phone screen are in short supply and so it can be tough to think about layering more things at the top of the story,” said Mayer. “But I think when it comes to our credibility and people’s ability to fully understand what they’re looking at, it seems like to me like it’s worth the investment.”

Many opinion editors, Plazas and Ancrum included, agree that the onus falls on the media industry to address this confusion, not the readers.

“Journalism is about making sense of the world, helping individuals understand what’s happening in their communities,” said Kiesow. “Design should be about helping readers understand journalism.”

Eliana Miller is a recent graduate of Bowdoin College. You can reach her on Twitter @ElianaMM23 , or via email at [email protected].

opinion essay vs editorial

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opinion essay vs editorial

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Opinion The Washington Post guide to writing an opinion article

opinion essay vs editorial

The Washington Post is providing this news free to all readers as a public service.

Follow this story and more by signing up for national breaking news email alerts.

Each month, The Washington Post publishes dozens of op-eds from guest authors. These articles — written by subject-matter experts, politicians, journalists and other people with something interesting to say — provide a diversity of voices and perspectives for our readers.

The information and tips below are meant to demystify our selection and editing process, and to help you sharpen your argument before submitting an op-ed of your own.

opinion essay vs editorial


The Difference between an Essay and an Editorial

The best essays are featured in compilations of writings on a specific topic that are printed by university presses for academic writing. The best editorials are featured in everything from local to national newspapers, television news programs, and in online news sources and websites.

What is an Essay?

Essay vs. Editorial

An essay is a piece of writing that examines a particular topic in a few very structured different ways. Narrative essays tell a story, while expository essays present only facts. A persuasive essay argues for a particular viewpoint, while a descriptive essay paints a picture in its readers' imaginations. The type of essay you choose to write should always be based on which type is most useful in informing your readers on the topic you've chosen to write.

Essays can be written on any subject from 18th century British literature to the Hubble Telescope's latest discovery. No matter which time period or topic an essay explores, there are always news ways of looking at the subject and new ideas to form about it.

What is an Editorial?

An editorial is an opinion-based piece of writing that focuses on a topical issue. A good editorial can sway an election, inspire activism around a social issue, or start public debates.

Just like essays, there are several different kinds of editorials. A leading editorial is a call to action that can inspire change, while an entertaining editorial can make a reader laugh using humor and satire. Praising editorial expresses gratitude and admiration for a good person or a good deed., while a criticism editorial points out flaws.

Great editorials, like essays, start with a thesis statement. In structuring an editorial, it's important to provide an unbiased, factual presentation of the subject under discussion in an objective way before expressing an opinion. While opinions are the opposite of facts and are therefore neither right or wrong, opinions expressed in an editorial need good backing arguments and facts to support them.

What are You Trying to Say?

If the purpose of your writing is to impart knowledge in an orderly way, you're writing an essay. If your purpose is to capture your thoughts on an issue you find important and persuade others to share that opinion, or to praise work done in your community, or even to amuse readers with your take on a topical issue, you're writing an editorial.

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Expert Commentary

How to write an op-ed or column

Tip sheet on formulating, researching, writing and editing news opinion articles.

Writing an op-ed (iStock)

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The following is reprinted courtesy of Jeffrey Seglin , lecturer in public policy and director of the Harvard Kennedy School Communications Program :

An op-ed piece derives its name from originally having appeared opposite the editorial page in a newspaper. Today, the term is used more widely to represent a column that represents the strong, informed and focused opinion of the writer on an issue of relevance to a targeted audience.

Distinguishing characteristics of an op-ed or column

Partly, a column is defined by where it appears, but it shares some common characteristics:

  • Typically, it is short, between 750 and 800 words.
  • It has a clearly defined point.
  • It has a clearly defined point of view.
  • It represents clarity of thinking.
  • It contains the strong, distinctive voice of the writer.

Questions to ask yourself when writing an op-ed or column

  • Do I have a clear point to make? If so, what is it?
  • Who cares? (Writing with a particular audience in mind can inform how you execute your column. Who is it that you are trying to convince? Why are you targeting that specific reader?)
  • Is there substance to my argument?

Topic and theme

Every successful op-ed piece or column must have a clearly defined topic and theme.

  • The topic is the person, place, issue, incident or thing that is the primary focus of the column. The topic is usually stated in the first paragraph.
  • The theme is the big, overarching idea of the column. What’s your point in writing about the chosen topic and why is it important? The theme may appear early in the piece or it may appear later when it may also serve as a turning point into a deeper level of argument.

While columns and op-ed pieces allow writers to include their own voice and express an opinion, to be successful the columns must be grounded in solid research. Research involves acquiring facts, quotations, citations or data from sources and personal observation. Research also allows a reader to include sensory data (touch, taste, smell, sound or sight) into a column. There are two basic methods of research:

  • Field research: going to the scene, interviews, legwork; primary materials, observations, and knowledge.
  • Library, academic, or internet research: using secondary materials, including graphs, charts, and scholarly articles.

Openings and endings

The first line of an op-ed is crucial. The opening “hook” may grab the reader’s attention with a strong claim, a surprising fact, a metaphor, a mystery, or a counter-intuitive observation that entices the reader into reading more. The opening also briefly lays the foundation for your argument.

Similarly, every good column or op-ed piece needs a strong ending that fulfills some basic requirements. It:

  • Echoes or answers introduction.
  • Has been foreshadowed by preceding thematic statements.
  • Is the last and often most memorable detail.
  • Contains a final epiphany or calls the reader to action.

There are two basic types of endings. An “open ending” suggests rather than states a conclusion, while a “closed ending” states rather than suggests a conclusion. The closed ending in which the point of the piece is resolved is by far the most commonly used.


Having a strong voice is critical to a successful column or op-ed piece. Columns are most typically conversational in tone, so you can imagine yourself have a conversation with your reader as you write (a short, focused conversation). But the range of voice used in columns can be wide: contemplative, conversational, descriptive, experienced, informative, informed, introspective, observant, plaintive, reportorial, self-effacing, sophisticated or humorous, among many other possibilities.

Sometimes what voice you use is driven by the publication for which you are writing. A good method of developing your voice is to get in the practice of reading your column or op-ed out loud. Doing so gives you a clear sense of how your piece might sound – what your voice may come off as – to your intended reader.

Revision checklist

Below are some things to remember as you revise your op-ed or column before you submit it for publication. You should always check:

  • Coherence and unity.
  • Simplicity.
  • Voice and tone. Most are conversational; some require an authoritative voice.
  • Direct quotations and paraphrasing for accuracy.
  • That you properly credit all sources (though formal citations are not necessary).
  • The consistency of your opinion throughout your op-ed or column.

Further resources

Below are links to some online resources related to op-ed and column writing:

  • The Op-Ed Project is a terrific resource for anyone looking to strengthen their op-ed writing. It provides tips on op-ed writing, suggestions about basic op-ed structure, guidelines on how to pitch op-ed pieces to publications, and information about top outlets that publish op-eds. Started as an effort to increase the number of women op-ed writers, The Op-Ed Project also regularly runs daylong seminars around the country.
  • “How to Write an Op-Ed Article,” which was prepared by David Jarmul, Duke’s associate vice president for news and communications, provides great guidelines on how to write a successful op-ed.
  • “How to Write Op-Ed Columns,” which was prepared by The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is another useful guide to writing op-eds. It contains a useful list of op-ed guidelines for top-circulation newspapers in the U.S.
  • “And Now a Word from Op-Ed,” offers some advice on how to think about and write op-eds from the Op-Ed editor of The New York Times .

Author Jeffrey Seglin is a lecturer in public policy and director of the Harvard Kennedy School Communications Program .

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opinion essay vs editorial

Opinion Writing: a Guide to Writing a Successful Essay Easily

opinion essay vs editorial

An opinion essay requires students to write their thoughts regarding a subject matter. Relevant examples and explanations back their point of view. Before starting an opinion paper, it is important to study the definition, topics, requirements, and structure. Referring to examples is also highly useful. Perhaps you need help with our admission essay writing service ? Take a look at this guide from our dissertation writing service to learn how to write an opinion essay like an expert.

What Is an Opinion Essay

A common question among students is: ‘What is an Opinion Essay?' It is an assignment that contains questions that allow students to share their point-of-view on a subject matter. Students should express their thoughts precisely while providing opinions on the issue related to the field within reasonable logic. Some opinion essays type require references to back the writer's claims.

Opinion writing involves using a student's personal point-of-view, which is segregated into a point. It is backed by examples and explanations. The paper addresses the audience directly by stating ‘Dear Readers' or the equivalent. The introduction involves a reference to a speech, book, or play. This is normally followed by a rhetorical question like ‘is the pope Catholic?' or something along those lines.

What Kind of Student Faces an Opinion Essay

Non-native English-speaking students enrolled in the International English Language Testing System by the British Council & Cambridge Assessment English are tasked with learning how to write the opinion essays. This can be high-school or college students. It is designed to enhance the level of English among students. It enables them to express their thoughts and opinions while writing good opinion essay in English.


We will write you a plagiarism-free opinion essay, with a title page, unlimited revisions, and bunch of other cool features included!

What Are the Requirements of an Opinion Essay?

What Are the Requirements of an Opinion Essay

Avoid Going Off-Topic: Always write an opinion essay within relevance to answer the assigned question. This is also known as ‘beating around the bush' and should not be included in any opinion paragraph as it may lower your grade.

Indent the First Paragraph: With most academic papers, opinion writing is not different. Therefore, it contains the rule of indenting the first line of the introduction.

A Well-Thought Thesis: The full thesis statement is a brief description of the opinion essay. It determines the rest of the paper. Include all the information that you wish to include in the body paragraphs

The Use of Formal Languages: Although it is okay to write informally, keep a wide range of professional and formal words. This includes: ‘Furthermore,' ‘As Stated By,' ‘However', & ‘Thus'.

Avoid Internet Slang: In the opinion paper, avoid writing using slang words. Don'tDon't include words like ‘LOL', ‘OMG', ‘LMAO', etc.

The Use of First Person Language (Optional): For the reason of providing personal thought, it is acceptable to write your personal opinion essay in the first person.

Avoid Informal Punctuation: Although the requirements allow custom essay for the first-person language, they do not permit informal punctuation. This includes dashes, exclamation marks, and emojis.

Avoid Including Contradictions: Always make sure all spelling and grammar is correct.

We also recommend reading about types of sentences with examples .

Opinion Essay Topics

Before learning about the structure, choosing from a wide range of opinion essay topics is important. Picking an essay theme is something that can be done very simply. Choosing an excellent opinion essay topic that you are interested in or have a passion for is advisable. Otherwise, you may find the writing process boring. This also ensures that your paper will be both effective and well-written.

  • Do sports differ from ordinary board games?
  • Is using animals in circus performances immoral?
  • Why should we be honest with our peers?
  • Should all humans be entitled to a 4-day workweek?
  • Should all humans become vegetarians?
  • Does a CEO earn too much?
  • Should teens be barred from having sleepovers?
  • Should everyone vote for their leader?
  • The Pros & Cons of Day-Light Saving Hours.
  • What are the most energy-efficient and safest cars of X year?

Opinion Essay Structure

When it comes to opinion paragraphs, students may struggle with the opinion essay format. The standard five-paragraph-essay structure usually works well for opinion essays. Figuring out what one is supposed to include in each section may be difficult for beginners. This is why following the opinion essay structure is something all beginners should do, for their own revision before writing the entire essay.

You might also be interested in getting more information about: 5 PARAGRAPH ESSAY

Opinion Essay Structure

Opinion essay introduction

  • Address the audience directly, and state the subject matter.
  • Reference a speech, poem, book, or play.
  • Include the author's name and date of publication in brackets.
  • 1 or 2 sentences to make up a short description.
  • 1 or 2 summarizing sentences of the entire paper.
  • 1 sentence that links to the first body paragraph.

Body Paragraph 1

  • Supporting arguments
  • Explanation
  • A linking sentence to the second body paragraph.

Body Paragraph 2

  • Supporting argument
  • A linking sentence to the third body paragraph.

Body Paragraph 3

  • A linking sentence to the conclusion.

Conclusion paragraph

  • Summary of the entire paper
  • A conclusive sentence (the bigger picture in conclusion)

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Opinion Essay Examples

Do you need something for reference? Reading opinion essay examples can expand your knowledge of this style of writing, as you get to see exactly how this form of an essay is written. Take a look at our samples to get an insight into this form of academic writing.

Over the past, American popular culture has been strong in creating racial stereotypes. Images displayed through television, music, and the internet have an impact on how individuals behave and what individuals believe. People find their identities and belief systems from popular culture. Evidently, I believe that American pop culture has created racial stereotypes that predominantly affect other ethnic minorities. Analyzing the history of America reveals that African Americans have always had a problem defining themselves as Americans ever since the era of slavery. AfricanAmericans have always had a hard time being integrated into American culture. The result is that African Americans have been subjected to ridicule and shame. American pop culture has compounded the problem by enhancing the negative stereotypes ofAfrican American. In theatre, film, and music, African Americans have been associated with vices such as murder, theft, and violence.
The family systems theory has a significant revelation on family relations. I firmly agree that to understand a particular family or a member, they should be around other family members. The emotional connection among different family members may create functional or dysfunctional coexistence, which is not easy to identify when an individual is further from the other members. Taking an example of the extended family, the relationship between the mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law may be tense, but once they are outside the family, they can pretend to have a good relationship. Therefore, I agree with the theory that the existing emotional attachment and developed culture in the family is distinctively understood when the family is together.

Opinion writing is a form of academic paper that asks students to include their thoughts on a particular topic. This is then backed by a logical explanation and examples. Becoming more knowledgeable is a practical way to successfully learn how to write an opinion paper. Before writing anything, it is essential to refer to important information. That includes the definition, topics, opinion writing examples, and requirements. This is what turns amateur writers into master writers.

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opinion essay vs editorial

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How to Write an Opinion Essay: Examples, Structure, & Tips

An opinion essay is a formal piece of writing which presents the author’s point of view on a particular subject supported by reasoning and examples . The opposing viewpoint is also suggested, but it is followed by arguments that show its inconsistency. Take a look at the guide prepared by Custom-writing experts to learn how to write a perfect opinion essay!

  • 🔤 Opinion Essay Basics
  • 📑 Essay Structure

🖊️ Opinion Essay Format

  • 💬 How to Start an Opinion Essay
  • ✅ Dos and Don’ts

👌 Opinion Essay Examples

  • 💡 Essay Tips

🏁 Concluding Remarks

🔗 references, 🔤 writing an opinion essay: basics.

You may be wondering: How do I write an opinion essay? How is it different from a persuasive, an argumentative, or a pros and cons essay ?

It’s simple: When you write an argumentative or persuasive essay , you should provide counterpoints and describe the essay topic from different perspectives. In an opinion paper, you don’t have to focus on the advantages and disadvantages in comparison. Instead, focus only on your opinion about the issue .

What Is an Opinion Essay?

An opinion essay, sometimes called “argumentative” or “persuasive,” presents the author’s perception of a subject and supporting arguments. It is written in a standard essay format. In such essays, authors usually try to persuade readers that their opinion is correct.

You may say: “I’m afraid to take a stand,” or “I don’t know what to say.” Relax. There’s nothing to worry about if your arguments are based on well-researched data. Speaking about opinion essay topics, some students find it difficult enough to choose the perfect one. But it’s not so hard: Think about something that engages you and that you feel strongly about.

Do you still have no clues about what to write? Check our 100 free ideas for an argumentative or persuasive essay and choose the topic that you have a strong opinion on. Then pick up a few reasons supporting your point of view and gather the facts that you’ll use as evidence.

📑 Opinion Essay Structure

The next step is to write an opinion essay outline . First of all, it will help you to overcome the fear of the blank page. Second, you’ll have a broken-down list of ideas and an organized place for your random thoughts. This will help you write an assignment faster.

Here’s an example of an opinion paper outline:

  • An introduction . Write a thesis statement and the reasons that support your opinion. Give your readers a hook to engage them with the topic
  • The main body . Break it into several paragraphs where you provide arguments and supporting examples, statements, and facts.
  • A conclusion . When ending a paper, restate the main thesis and summarize the central points of the essay.

Develop an outline while you’re researching the topic and place the pieces of evidence where they make the most sense. You don’t have to write the whole assignment at a time. Just put stand-alone examples and facts in the places where they should go.

A well-prepared outline for an opinion essay is almost 70 percent of the work. All you’ll need to do is simply join your arguments by bridging the language.

Now that you’re familiar with the basic opinion essay structure, let’s see how exactly you should format each part of your paper.

Opinion Essay Introduction

Start your writing with a hook sentence that grabs the reader’s interest. You can use a surprising fact, a provocative question, or a relevant quote as a hook.

Have you ever stopped to consider the impact that social media has on our lives and society as a whole?

Then, provide background information and a thesis statement. It should present your opinion on the topic and the main arguments that support your point of view.

The rise of social media platforms has had detrimental effects on teenagers’ mental health due to increased feelings of loneliness, heightened levels of anxiety, and the negative impact on self-esteem.

Opinion Essay Body 

In the body paragraphs, you need to explain your arguments and provide evidence to support them. Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence that introduces the point you are discussing.

The constant exposure to idealized and unrealistic images on social media platforms can contribute to insecurities and anxiety among teenagers, affecting their mental well-being.

Then, provide specific examples, facts, or statistics to support your reason. You may also include personal experiences or anecdotes to make your points more convincing.

According to The Mental Health Foundation’s survey in 2019, four in ten teenagers (40%) admitted that posts on social media had caused them to worry about body image. This statistic highlights the concerning impact of social media on teenagers’ mental well-being.

Opinion Essay Conclusion

The last paragraph of your opinion essay is the conclusion. Here, you restate your thesis and summarize the main points from the body paragraphs.

Social media platforms have negatively impacted teenagers’ mental well-being through the feelings of isolation, increased depression levels, and detrimental effects on the body image.

  • Finally, you should end with a strong and memorable closing statement or a call to action. This will help you leave a lasting impression on the reader.

If all people work together raising awareness and advocating for change, we will eventually build a healthier online environment.

Opinion Essay Format

Correct formattion is another essential aspect of essay writing. Here are helpful guidelines you can use:

  • Stick to a readable 12-point font, such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides of the document.
  • Double-space the entire essay, including the title and headings.
  • Properly cite any sources used in your essay according to your required citation style (APA, MLA, Harvard, etc.)

If you are unsure about any specific formatting requirements for your opinion essay, we recommend consulting your school’s writing guidelines or asking your professor for clarification.

💬 How to Start an Opinion Essay – 30 Ideas

When it comes to opinion writing, a lot of students can’t explain their point of view. This shows a lack of critical thinking skills and leads to low grades. Even the perfect opinion essay format won’t save the situation in this case.

If you need a quick fix for your assignment, check our list of transition words and phrases to help you start putting your opinions:

  • As far as I am concerned, …
  • I am (not) convinced that …
  • In my opinion/view …
  • My opinion is that …
  • I (firmly)believe that …
  • I (definitely) feel/think that …
  • I am inclined to believe that …
  • Personally, I believe that…
  • It is clear that…
  • It seems to me that…
  • In my mind…
  • As I see it…
  • My principal reason is…
  • Another reason is…
  • It is widely known that…
  • It could be argued that…
  • The well-known fact is…
  • Research has shown that…
  • For instance/for example…
  • This suggests that…
  • It would seem that…
  • This proves that…
  • This supports the …
  • Even though / Although…
  • In contrast…
  • Despite the fact that…
  • In spite of…
  • In order to…
  • In conclusion…

And don’t forget to use nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, or make your own phrases.

✅ Opinion Essay Rules

Writing an opinion essay may seem challenging, but if you keep the following dos and don’ts in mind, you will easily craft a compelling and well-structured essay. Check out the opinion essay rules we’ve collected for you below.

This image shows opinion essay rules.

Opinion Essay Dos

  • Use formal style. When writing an opinion essay, you should use a formal style, avoiding slang and colloquial language. It means using proper grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary suitable for an academic setting.
  • Choose a side on the issue. You should take a clear stance on a particular topic in your essay. For instance, if the prompt is “Should school uniforms be mandatory?” you would need to choose whether you are for or against the idea and prove your position.
  • Arrange your supporting points in emphatic order. Start with the weakest argument and end with the strongest. It will help to persuade the reader and leave a lasting impression.
  • Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence . This way, your readers will understand the point you are trying to make from the very beginning.
  • Provide support for your arguments. It is essential to back up your opinions with evidence, examples, and reasoning. You can include statistics, research findings, or expert opinions.
  • Stay on topic. It is crucial to remain focused on the main issue or question throughout your paper. Be careful not to go off on a tangent or discuss irrelevant topics that do not directly support your argument.
  • Use a diplomatic and professional tone. It means avoiding personal attacks, derogatory language, or overly emotional statements. Instead, present your ideas and respond to opposing viewpoints calmly and respectfully.

Opinion Essay Don’ts

  • Don’t use informal language. Avoid using colloquial expressions, slang, jargon, or contractions. Instead, use formal language and non-abbreviated word forms.
  • Don’t use emotive vocabulary. Emotive vocabulary includes words that provoke strong emotions or bias, such as “amazing,” “horrible,” or “disgusting.” In an opinion essay, it’s essential to use neutral language.
  • Don’t overgeneralize. Avoid making broad statements that assume something is true for everyone or everything. Instead, be specific.
  • Don’t use sources without proper referencing. When including information from other sources in your opinion essay, it’s crucial to provide appropriate citations and references. This way, you’ll show that you have done a thorough research and give credit to the original author.
  • Don’t rely on personal examples. While personal anecdotes can sometimes strengthen an argument, it’s important not to rely solely on them. Instead, try to use different types of evidence, including statistics, expert opinions, and studies.
  • Don’t address your readers. Directly addressing the reader by using “you” is considered informal and should be avoided in an opinion essay. Instead, it’s better to present the arguments and evidence without involving the reader directly.

Do you want to better understand what an opinion essay is? You are welcome to use our opinion essay examples! Reading them will help you gain an insight into this form of academic writing.

Opinion Essay Example #1

The USA is a multinational and multicultural country that is advanced in many areas, including healthcare, medicine, and science in general. However, some of the experiments, such as the syphilis studies discussed in this paper, show that the country is still in the process of overcoming intolerance, racial segregation, and social inequality. Talking about these studies aloud brings the question of research ethics to the forefront. In particular, people who participated in those scientific experiments were misled and misinformed about their health. The research group observed how the participants suffered from the disease’s symptoms until death (Brandt, 24). There are a number of diseases and conditions that have not been researched enough. The experience gained during the studies in Tuskegee and Guatemala should be used to eliminate the possibility of unethical conduct and ensure transparency in all the activities.

Opinion Essay Example #2

To confront cyberbullying effectively, it is vital to know how to identify what it is and spread this awareness among the children who may unwarily become participants. The tendency to raise this issue in the scientific and public spheres has positive dynamics. As there is legal protection for cyberbullying victims in the USA, it is vital to detect harassment cases. For this purpose, parents and teachers should cooperate to create trustworthy relationships so the child can ask for help from adults. That is why a high level of emotional support from parents and peers is necessary to combat bullying before it has occurred.

Opinion Essay Topics

  • Your personal view on money and expenditures.
  • Analyze your attitude towards obesity as a public health problem.
  • Give your opinion on the importance of container deposit legislation.
  • What do you think of different belief systems?
  • Discuss your point of view on The Scream by Edvard Munch.
  • Describe your opinion on the climate change issue.
  • What do you think of the media’s influence on people’s views ?
  • Your opinion on the film Argo directed by Affleck .
  • Express your opinion on diets and weight loss programs.
  • Analyze the impact of war on society and present your opinion.
  • Present your opinion on the question of gay marriage .
  • Describe your attitude towards gender stereotypes.
  • Do you support the Biblical point of view on divorce ?
  • Explain what you think about racism in employment.
  • Discuss your attitude to photography.
  • Describe what love is , in your opinion.
  • Give your opinion on genetic engineering.
  • Analyze the necessity of vaccination for public school students and present your opinion.
  • Express your views on the death penalty.
  • Discuss your views on aging changes .
  • Do you like the music of a Classical Era?
  • Is it ethical to use animals in research, in your opinion?
  • Do you think the government should increase the minimum wage?
  • Explain whether you agree that soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world.
  • Do you think the Internet plays an important role in your life?
  • Describe your point of view on the controversial topic of human cloning .
  • Present your opinion on tattoo s as a form of art.
  • What does the ideal social meeting place look like?
  • How do you think bullies should be punished?
  • Do you support the opinion that celebrities should be positive role models ?
  • Is remote work more convenient than working in an office?
  • Describe your attitude towards social networks .
  • What is justice , in your opinion?
  • Give your opinion on American football .
  • What do you think about classical music?
  • Is the government monitoring its citizens justified by safety concerns?
  • Explain what you think about steroid use in competitive sports.
  • Discuss the necessity to ban violent computer games .
  • Your personal opinion on using cell phones while driving .
  • Do you think the government should interfere with the contents of TV shows ?
  • Express your opinion on net neutrality .
  • Describe your views on online dating .
  • Is protectionism necessary for saving a country’s economy?
  • What do you think of a vegan lifestyle?
  • Present your attitude towards physician-assisted suicide.
  • Do you support the opinion that college athletes should be paid ?
  • Your point of view on cigarette smoking and suggestion to ban it.
  • Explain whether you think that public colleges and universities should be tuition-free .
  • How do you understand responsibility?
  • Express your opinion on canceling grades at schools .

💡 Opinion Essay Tips for an A+ Paper

Want to make your essay truly outstanding? Follow the pro tips below:

  • Read the question carefully. Take time to fully understand what you are asked to write about. It will help you stay on topic and ensure your essay addresses it effectively.
  • Plan your ideas before you start writing. Before beginning the writing process, take time to brainstorm and outline your ideas. Then, evaluate and select the strongest arguments or points to include in your essay.
  • Show an understanding of both sides of the argument. Acknowledging different perspectives demonstrates a well-rounded view and can strengthen your position by addressing counterarguments.
  • Make use of linking words and phrases. Transitions such as “however,” “in addition,” and “on the other hand” help create a smooth flow between paragraphs and make your essay easier to read. Our transition words generator can assist you with it.
  • Don’t introduce any new ideas in the conclusion. In the last paragraph, summarize your main points and restate your thesis without bringing up new information that wasn’t discussed in the body of your essay.

Thank you for reading! Our free tips will help you get through any kind of essay. Still, if you’re stuck with your essay, you can always count on professional writers’ tips and recommendations!

With the help of the tips above, you’ll be able to create the most unbelievable papers in a blink of an eye. Now that you know the secrets of professional writers, try writing your opinion essay!

The final piece of advice : Don’t forget to proofread your paper. Revise your content, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, etc. Make sure that your essay answers the main question. Check if the evidence you provided is accurate and up-to-date.

  • Essay Structure | – Harvard College Writing Center
  • An opinion essay | Writing – Advanced C1 | British Council
  • 5 Tips for Writing an Opinion Essay – ThoughtCo
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Thanks a lot. This was helpful

thank you alot this really helped me

I hope this is gonna help me with my opinion essay

Thanks for the help. Really needed it for my opinion essay due tomorrow. -_-

Thanks for the help keep the good work gentlemen

This was great it really helped out.Thanks.

Opinion Writing: Everything You Need To Know (+ 8 Examples)

Everybody has opinions and the perfect medium to convey them is through opinion writing.

Learning how to convey your opinions to others by writing is an excellent way of voicing your ideas and suggestions and becoming more confident as a person and an articulate writer.

What is the purpose of opinion writing?

Opinion writing is a powerful type of writing that helps you convey your opinion to the audience in the most effective and compelling manner.

It has a specific format:

Thesis statement

  • Introduction

It also consists of structural elements such as

Let’s delve further into opinion writing, its types, and how to write an opinion piece in this guide.

What is opinion writing?

As its name implies, opinion writing is a type of writing in which the writer gives their opinion on a topic or subject matter.

The writer shares their perspective or stance on that topic and offers reasons and supporting arguments to support that opinion.

What must be included in opinion writing?

Here are some features that every piece of opinion writing should have.

  • Supporting reasons and evidence
  • Well-researched and well-presented arguments
  • A definite, well-organized structure
  • Quotes or experiences by credible authorities on the subject that lend credence to the writer’s opinion
  • Relevant and authentic facts and statistics
  • A reasonable conclusion summing up the main idea and reiterating the writer’s viewpoint

Importance of Opinion Writing: Why is opinion writing important for students?

Opinion writing is an essential kind of writing for a multitude of reasons. As a student, a writer, or a blogger, it helps you share your views and opinions on various subjects with your audience.

It also enables you to develop and further enhance your writing skills, and you learn how to effectively communicate your ideas and perspectives with the aid of authentic evidence. Moreover, it helps build confidence.

For readers, opinion pieces are a great source of knowledge, facts, and other opinions that may or may not be different from their own.

Knowing other opinions on various subjects is essential and allows one to broaden their perspective.

What are some types of opinion writing?

Opinion pieces can mainly be divided into columns, editorials, and op-eds. We’ll explore each type in detail below.

Writers who write columns are often referred to as columnists and write opinion pieces on various current events, political events, social issues, and other topics.

Columns are usually published in newspapers, magazines, and other literary publications.

Like columns, editorials are also published in newspapers and magazines and convey a specific opinion or stance on a particular subject matter.

Editorials are written by an editorial board member of a newspaper or magazine.

Op-eds are opinion pieces commonly featured in magazines and newspapers and written by guest contributors.

“Op-ed” is short for “opposite the editorial page,” where these pieces are mostly found.

What is the structure of opinion writing?

Every opinion piece should be well-structured, with different paragraphs dedicated to other parts of the arguments.

Typically, an opinion piece has the following structural elements: thesis sentence, introduction, body, and conclusion.

The body is the part where the bulk of the writer’s opinions, arguments, supporting evidence, and statistics go.

In the body part, ideas should be formulated using this order:

  • Examples/Evidence
  • In the next section, we’ll explore these structural elements in more detail.

Opinion writing format

While there is no strict format, every writer has to adhere to when penning opinion pieces, certain structural elements (that we’ve mentioned previously) must be present in every opinion piece.

Here are some of them:

The thesis statement gives the reader a quick overview of what the opinion piece is about and what the writer’s stance is.

Introduction Of Your Opinion

The introduction is an integral part of an opinion piece in which the writer gives some background about the topic and paves the way for their upcoming arguments.

The opening may also contain the writer’s name, publication details, etc.

Next comes the body. The body is where the bulk of the writer’s arguments, supporting reasons, facts, and statistics go.

It can contain multiple supporting arguments, examples, and references from credible sources. The body usually contains numerous paragraphs.

Opinion Conclusion

In the conclusion, the writer effectively wraps up their argument and reiterates their stance on the subject matter.

The conclusion is basically a summary of the whole opinion piece.

Besides the essential structural elements and necessary parts (supporting arguments, evidence, examples, etc.), there are other vital components that every opinion piece must have.

These include:

  • A bold, clear statement of the writer’s opinion or stance on the subject matter
  • Formal language and a polite and informative tone
  • Relevant and appropriate evidence
  • Varying sentence length and convincing word choice to inform the audience and keep them engaged

How do you start opinion writing?

The beginning of an opinion piece is important and must set the stage for the upcoming arguments.

The opinion piece should begin with a clear statement of the subject matter and hint at the writer’s stance on it.

In addition, your introduction should provide a smooth transition to the main body of the opinion piece.

Opinion writing topics: What is an example in opinion writing?

Here is a list of 8 excellent topics for writing opinion pieces.

  • Should organizations adopt a 4-day work week?
  • Should standardized testing be abolished?
  • Is homeschooling better than traditional schooling?
  • Are video games turning children violent?
  • What are some of the best electric cars you can buy?
  • Should every child receive awards for participating in school events instead of only those who win?
  • Is online education as effective as in-person education?
  • Is it wrong to put animals in cages?

Final thoughts

Opinion writing is a crucial type of writing and is something everybody should try their hand at. It helps you voice your opinions and empowers you to address an audience and speak your mind.

Since it is specialized writing, it has its own format, structural elements, and other essential components.

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opinion essay vs editorial

Differences Between An Argumentative Essay And An Opinion Essay

by Faze Staff

argumentative couple

What’s the difference between an argumentative essay and an opinion essay? In both, you share your perspective on an issue that you think is important, but they are written in different formats and have different purposes in the academic world. For example, when writing an argumentative essay, you usually present the opposing viewpoint to your own opinion and then refute it with solid evidence. On the other hand, opinion essays are based solely on your personal viewpoint and there isn’t much of a structure to how you choose to write it, as long as it’s well-organized and easy to read.

What is an argumentative essay?

An argument essay is one of two basic types of essays that you’ll encounter in your college writing classes: an argumentative essay and an expository essay. In contrast to an expository essay, which explains something, an argument essay does not explain anything; instead, it tries to convince its audience of a certain point of view on a given topic. An argumentative essay is intended to convince readers that your opinion or position on a topic is correct. It may focus on a current issue, such as gun control, or it may be more general in nature. In any case, your thesis will identify what you want to convince readers of: for example, you might argue that social media has had a positive impact on society or that it is harmful. You’ll then use evidence from research and personal experience to support your point of view. You can also write an argumentative essay about a fictional situation, in which case you’ll need to make up facts rather than rely on real-world data.

What’s an opinion essay?

Although both of these types of essays are meant to argue a point, they do so in different ways. With an opinion essay, you’re arguing your point through personal reflection or experience; in an argumentative essay, you’re taking a side on an issue and proving that position with facts, data and other evidence.

This is an essay that presents a point of view on a given subject, usually something controversial. They’re sometimes referred to as op-eds, short for opposite editorial pages. Opinion essays are similar to arguments but written in essay format rather than paragraph format. Unlike arguments, opinion pieces can support their claims with examples from personal experience or evidence found in sources, just like any other essay.

The main difference between an opinion essay and an argumentative essay is that an opinion essay doesn’t have any research behind it—it simply states your own personal viewpoint about something. This could be a person, place or thing (or all three). For example: This is my favorite restaurant because I love their shrimp fettuccine alfredo, but every time I go there I always get sick afterwards.

Girl Writing

Key differences in each

A common misconception for a young essay writer is that an argumentative essay and an opinion essay are one in the same. In fact, these two types of essays are incredibly different; in order to produce a high-quality piece of writing, it’s essential to understand exactly what each type entails and how they differ from one another. Read on for a brief explanation of what distinguishes these two varieties of essays from one another

Common mistakes students make when writing an essay

Students often make mistakes when writing an essay due to careless mistakes or simply not following instruction, which we will explore further into today’s post. It’s very important for an essay writer to be precise with their word choices in order to convey a particular message effectively. If a student is not precise enough with his/her word choice, it can lead to an essay that fails to express its point clearly.

A few tips on how to write a great essay

From start to finish, a great essay takes time and effort, so you’ll want to plan your essay carefully. Before you get started, it’s helpful to identify exactly what kind of essay you’re being asked to write so that you can best focus your efforts. If you have trouble deciding, then you should contact an essay writer from en.samedayessay.com.

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How to Write an Editorial?

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  • First Online: 24 October 2021

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opinion essay vs editorial

  • Samiran Nundy 4 ,
  • Atul Kakar 5 &
  • Zulfiqar A. Bhutta 6  

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An Editorial is defined as an opinion or a view of a member of the editorial board or any senior or reputed faculty written in a journal or newspaper. The statement reflects the opinion of the journal and is considered to be an option maker. If you have been asked to write an editorial it means that you are an expert on that topic. Editorials are generally solicited.

Editorial writers enter after battle and shoot the wounded Neil Goldschmidt, American Businessman and Politician (1940–…)

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opinion essay vs editorial

The Journal Editor as Academic Custodian

opinion essay vs editorial

Preparing the Manuscript

1 what is an editorial, 2 how is the topic for an editorial chosen.

This is decided by the members of the editorial board and is usually related to important work which is about to be published in the journal. If you are invited to write an editorial on a topic of your choosing you should preferably write one on a general or public health problem that might interest a wide readership [ 1 ].

3 What Should be the Contents of an Editorial?

It has been said that ‘Editors, by and large, are reticent people, with a magnified sense of their own importance. Well, this may hurt some, but before they jump at our throats, let us clarify that we belong there as well’. The editorial should not look like an introduction to an original article or a self-glorifying piece of fiction.

Editorial writing has been compared to a double-edged sword, you can be apolitical and pragmatic but at the same time dogmatic in your views. The majority of editorials provide the readers a balanced view of the problems raised in a particular research paper and place them in a wider context. But there is no harm in going to extremes if the data supports your view. However, you should not mock the paper’s authors [ 2 ].

4 What Is the Basic Information Required for Writing an Editorial?

First, read the paper for which the editorial has been asked again and again. Do a literature search and critically analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the study. Read about how and why other authors came to similar or different conclusions. Discuss whether or not the findings are important [ 3 ].

An editorial should be brief, about one to two pages long, but it should be powerful. The language should be a combination of good English and good science. The writing can be ‘embellished by language but not drowned in it’. While a good editorial states a view, it does not force the reader to believe it and gives him the liberty to form his own opinion.

5 What Are the Steps Involved in Writing an Editorial?

Choose a topic intelligently.

Have a catchy title.

Declare your stance early.

Build up your argument with data, statistics and quotes from famous persons.

Provide possible solutions to the problem.

Follow a definite structure consisting of an introduction, a body that contains arguments and an end with a tailpiece of a clear conclusion. It should give the reader a chance to ponder over the questions and concerns raised.

6 What Are the Types of Editorial?

Editorials can be classified into four types. They may:

Explain or interpret : Editors use this type of editorial to explain a new policy, a new norm or a new finding.

Criticize: this type of editorial is used to disapprove of any finding or observation.

Persuade: These encourage the reader to adopt new thoughts or ideas.

Praise: These editorials admire the authors for doing something well.

7 What Is the Purpose of an Editorial?

An editorial is a personal message from the editor to the readers. It may be a commentary on a published article or topic of current interest which has not been covered by the journal. Editorials are also written on new developments in medicine. They may also cover non-scientific topics like health policy, law and medicine, violence against doctors, climate change and its effect on health, re-emerging infectious diseases, public interventions for the control of non -communicable diseases and ongoing epidemics or pandemics [ 4 ].

8 What Are the Instructions for Writing Editorials in Major Journals?

Many editorials written by in-house editors or their teams represent the voice of the journal. A few journals allow outside authors to write editorials. The details for these suggested by some of the leading journals are given in Table 26.1 .

9 What Is a Viewpoint?

A Viewpoint is a short article that focuses on some key issues, cutting-edge technology or burning topics or any new developments in the field of medicine. It can be a ‘personal opinion’ or any piece of information, which gives the author’s perspective on a particular issue, supported by the literature. Viewpoints can also be unencumbered by journal policy. The normal length of viewpoints can flexible. The BMJ, for instance, also allows viewpoints to be written by patients.

Viewpoints may share a few common features with commentaries, perspectives and a focus which is a brief, timely piece of information. It is like a ‘spotlight’ that contains information on research funding, policy issues and regulatory issues whereas a commentary is an in-depth analysis of a current matter which can also include educational policy, law besides any other seminal issue.

10 Conclusions

An editorial is written to provide a crisp, concise overview of an original article. It is generally deemed to be an honour to be asked to write an editorial.

One needs to follow the general instructions for writing editorials for a particular journal.

It should have an objective and the flow of ideas should be clear.

Squires BP. Editorials and platform articles: what editors want from authors and peer reviewers. CMAJ. 1989;141:666–7.

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Article types at The BMJ. Last accessed on 12th July 2020. Available on https://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/resources-authors/article-types

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Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). How to Write an Editorial?. In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries?. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_26

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Article contents

Editorial journalism and newspapers’ editorial opinions.

  • Julie Firmstone Julie Firmstone School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.803
  • Published online: 26 March 2019

Editorial journalism and newspapers’ editorial opinions represent an area of research that can make an important contribution to our understanding of the relationship between the press and politics. Editorials are a distinctive format and are the only place in a newspaper where the opinions of a paper as an organization are explicitly represented. Newspapers and the journalists who write editorials play a powerful role in constructing political debate in the public sphere. They use their editorial voice to attempt to influence politics either indirectly, through reaching public opinion, or directly, by targeting politicians. Editorial journalism is at its most persuasive during elections, when newspapers traditionally declare support for candidates and political parties. Despite the potential of editorial opinions to influence democratic debate, and controversy over the way newspapers and their proprietors use editorials to intervene in politics, editorial journalism is under-researched. Our understanding of the significance of this distinctive form of journalism can be better understood by exploring four key themes.

First, asking “What is editorial journalism?” establishes the context of editorial journalism as a unique practice with opinion-leading intentions. Several characteristics of editorial journalism distinguish it from other formats and genres. Editorials (also known as leading articles) require a distinctive style and form of expression, occupy a special place in the physical geography of a newspaper, represent the collective institutional voice of a newspaper rather than that of an individual, have no bylines in the majority of countries, and are written with differing aims and motivations to news reports. The historical development of journalism explains the status of editorials as a distinctive form of journalism. Professional ideals and practices evolved to demand objectivity in news reporting and the separation of fact from opinion. Historically, editorial and advocacy journalism share an ethos for journalism that endeavors to effect social or political change, yet editorial journalism is distinctive from other advocacy journalism practices in significant ways. Editorials are also an integral part of the campaign journalism practiced by some newspapers.

Second, research and approaches in the field of political communication have attributed a particularly powerful role to editorial journalism. Rooted in the effects tradition, researchers have attributed an important role to editorials in informing and shaping debate in the public sphere in four ways: (1) as an influence on readers, voters, and/or public opinion; (2) as an influence on the internal news agendas and coverage of newspapers; (3) as an influence on the agendas and coverage in other news media; and (4) as an influence on political or policy agendas. Theorizing newspapers as active and independent political actors in the political process further underpins the need to research editorial journalism. Third, editorial journalism has been overlooked by sociological studies of journalism practices. Research provides a limited understanding of the routines and practices of editorial journalists and the organization of editorial opinion at newspapers. Although rare, studies focusing on editorial journalism show that editorial opinion does not simply reflect the influence of proprietors, as has often been assumed. Rather, editorial opinions are shaped by a complex range of factors. Finally, existing research trajectories and current developments point to new challenges and opportunities for editorial journalism. These challenges relate to how professional norms respond to age-old questions about objectivity, bias, and partisanship in the digital age.

  • editorial journalism
  • leader writing
  • advocacy journalism
  • campaign journalism
  • newspapers as political actors
  • press partisanship
  • media effects
  • opinion leading
  • journalism studies

Introducing Editorial Journalism

The potential for newspapers’ editorial opinions to influence voters and politicians has driven debate and scholarship to coalesce around editorial opinion as the most tangible manifestation of the power of the press. Elections are very often followed by public debate about the power of newspapers to shape the outcome. Indeed, newspapers are not averse to claiming responsibility for influencing voters, as evidenced by the notorious British tabloid headline “It’s the Sun wot won it” the day after the unexpected election of a Conservative government in 1992 . Whether editorials have the power to change voters’ behavior is contested, yet much scholarship is based on the premise that newspapers’ opinions at least exert some influence in the construction of public knowledge: “How editorial writers interpret and use facts and opinions to persuade, to set an agenda, or to scold can bring about an important different meaning for the reading public” (Hallock, 2007 , p. 11).

The distinctive role of editorials as the collective identity of a newspaper and their overt and deliberate persuasive intentions distinguish editorial journalism from other journalism. Our understanding of the significance of this distinctive form can be better understood by structuring an analysis of research and theoretical approaches to editorial journalism into four key themes. The first draws on research to define editorial journalism as a distinctive practice. The second theme considers the significance attributed to editorial journalism by theoretical approaches that conceptualize the opinion-leading role of the press and provide evidence of the persuasive power of editorials in the public sphere. In the third theme, findings from sociological studies of the practice of editorial journalism are reviewed to consider influences on newspapers’ editorial opinions. Finally, existing research trajectories and current developments point to new challenges and opportunities for editorial journalism. These challenges relate to how professional norms respond to age-old questions about objectivity, bias, and partisanship in the digital age.

Editorial Journalism as a Distinct Genre and Practice

The genre of editorial journalism is exclusive to newspapers and refers to the practice of writing editorial articles (editorials), sometimes known as leaders or leading articles. These articles make up the editorial column, an historical feature of the printed newspaper format worldwide although there are some places where editorials are not commonplace including Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria. 1 Editorials are published in the name of the newspaper rather than attributed to individual journalists (see below for exceptions), and are intended to represent the collective opinion or the public voice of a newspaper. Editorials allow newspapers to make allegiances known; support and oppose individuals; speak on behalf of their readers; speak to readers; and speak to politicians, parties, and other organizations. Editorial journalism is not be confused with the use of the term “editorial” to refer to content in a news product that has been produced as journalism rather than other non-journalistic content such as advertising. The concept as explored here also differs from “editorializing,” which can occur in all types of journalism. Editorializing refers to instances when a personal opinion is expressed, usually when a journalist should only be giving a report of the facts.

Editorials differ from other opinion formats such as columns, commentary pages, letters to the editor, op-ed pages, or guest contributions. Formats vary but it is most common for editorials to be physically located toward the front or midway through the newspaper, and they are usually adjacent to the op-ed pages, cartoons, and letters to the editor. In some places editorials appear on the back page (Greece), on the front page (Saudi Arabia), or either on the front page or the first four to six pages (China). In some countries, there are variations among newspapers, for example, with some publishing editorials with bylines on page 2 and others giving comment in the name of the paper on page 22 (France). In Australia, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom, papers tend to publish editorials in roughly the same place (the middle) each day as a matter of tradition. With the exception of Greece, Sweden, some French papers (and no doubt some other countries), editorials are not attributed to individual journalists because they represent the collective voice of the newspaper.

The separation and clear identification of editorial articles as opinion has been carried over to online versions of newspapers. Editorials are written by specialist journalists known as leader writers (in the United Kingdom) who occupy senior positions within newspapers and/or by members of the editorial board (in the United States), and by high profile named journalists (Greece). In the most common format in the United Kingdom, a daily leader column consists of three editorial articles, usually of diminishing length and with the first article indicating prominence. Editorials vary in length according to the traditional newspapers formats (broadsheet/quality/tabloid) and are rarely over five hundred words. The editorial (or leader) column is most often visually framed as the institutional view of the paper, with headers that often include newspaper mastheads, value statements, crests, or logos. In exceptional cases such as election time or as part of a newspaper’s campaign, editorial opinion is published in a different format to give it greater prominence. Publishing editorials in unusual places such as on the front page (rare in the United Kingdom), or devoting an entire page or a double-page spread to an editorial pushes a newspaper’s opinion further up the agenda (Firmstone, 2016 , 2017 ).

The visual and physical demarcation of editorials from other content evolved as a crucial practice by which to observe the professional journalistic norm of separating fact from opinion. The ethical motivation to ensure that fact-based content is not tainted is further assured by the common practice of enforcing an unmovable boundary between the roles of news and opinion production.

The History of Editorial Journalism

Editorials and their status as a distinct genre stem from the historical development of journalism as a profession with ideals and practices that demand news reporting to be objective, to separate fact from opinion and, in the United States, to maintain a commitment to neutrality (a non-partisan press). The editorial emerged as a distinct format in response to the norms and values associated with the establishment of journalism as a profession in the early 20th century . Comprehensive historical accounts of the development of newspaper journalism (predominantly only available for the United States) describe how the separation of fact and opinion became a central organizing principle of journalistic practice (Jacobs & Townsley, 2011 ; Schudson, 1978 ). In tracing the origins of the leading article back to Victorian times, Liddle describes editorial journalism in the 1800s as “the most important, authoritative, and characteristic mode of British journalism” (Liddle, 1999 , p. 5).

From a point in the 1860s when the U.S. press was at its most political and expressed allegiances to political parties explicitly, newspapers moved to cut their official ties with political parties over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries . Great value was placed on demonstrating independence from parties and government through objective, fair, balanced reporting. At the same time, newspapers and their owners wanted to assert their voice as an independent and powerful force in public deliberation.

The creation of the editorial column in the United States in the 1920s enabled a strict separation of fact-based “objective” journalism from opinion (Schudson, 1978 ). Editorials were introduced as a vehicle to illustrate to readers a newspaper’s independence from government on a daily basis (Conboy, 2005 ). The segregation of news reporting from editorial opinion also served to allow journalists to defend their reporting as independent from the capitalist interests of newspaper owners. In the early 21st century , journalistic norms in the United States dictate that news pages report objectively and autonomously from the political views and opinions of the editorial board and proprietors. This requirement features in the American Society of News Editors “Statement of Principles”: “To be impartial does not require the press to be unquestioning or to refrain from editorial expression. Sound practice, however, demands a clear distinction for the reader between news reports and opinion. Articles that contain opinion or personal interpretation should be clearly identified” (ASNE, 2018 ).

The corresponding regulatory guidelines in the United Kingdom highlight a key difference in the way that the objectivity norm developed on each side of the Atlantic. Although objectivity in the United States was bound up with the development of an impartial press, the values British newspaper journalists associated with objectivity did not evolve to prohibit partisanship (Hampton, 2008 ). Instead, objectivity was more about independence and truth, and developed in institutionally specific contexts. The Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) guidelines state that newspapers are “free to editorialise and campaign but are obliged to make a clear distinction between comment, conjecture and fact” (IPSO, 2018 ). In spite of these voluntary regulations, the line between opinion and fact-based news reporting in the United Kingdom is blurred. Although no longer officially aligned with political parties, the U.K. press is famously partisan. Although news reporting purports to operate separately from opinion, it is generally agreed that editorial opinions shape the selection and framing of news reports.

Unfortunately, less is known about the historical development of editorial journalism in other cultural contexts. As the field of journalism studies expands, cross-national studies reveal that objectivity varies in importance in different journalistic cultures (Hallin & Mancini, 2004 ). For example, in Germany a clear distinction is not made between subjective commentary and news reporting (Esser, 1998 ; Hallin & Mancini, 2004 ). Despite such country-based differences, the editorial column represents a common format worldwide, where such deliberations are not required.

Newspapers’ Editorial Opinions and Partisanship

Newspapers use the distinctive format of an editorial to intervene into politics and to influence public opinion. During elections, newspapers traditionally use their editorial voice to endorse a candidate or party. The endorsement of political candidates is an “integral part of the electoral machinery” (Meltzer, 2007 , p. 99) and the bellwether of a newspaper’s partisanship. Endorsements and support for parties are often the culmination of editorial opinions that have been voiced over a prolonged period prior to election periods. Explicit declarations of partisanship are typically made on or around polling day and continue to shape editorial coverage until and unless an organizational decision is made to switch allegiances. It is possible to make observations about the overall political leaning of the national press by combining measurements of partisanship with a newspaper’s share of circulation (Seymour Ure, 1997 , 2002 ; Wring & Deacon, 2010 ). The strong connection between ownership and partisanship has led to concerns about plurality because of the gradual shift toward a concentration of ownership within many national newspaper systems (Hallock, 2007 ).

Although editorials routinely engage in debates that encompass a far wider range of political opinions than the formal support of political parties, most studies only use editorials as simple measures of partisanship during election time. Even though newspapers use their editorial voice to opine on a wide range of issues, far fewer studies have measured editorial opinion outside of elections and on topics other than politics. Hallock’s historical analysis of U.S. editorials from the late 1700s to mid-1900s found that editorials were published on a vast range of topics “all in the higher cause of American nationalism and culture” (Hallock, 2007 , p. 33). The following selection of studies is referenced to indicate the range of topics newspapers have chosen to take stances on. Content analyses of editorials that go beyond simple measurements of partisanship include one of the first articles to systematically analyze editorial content that looked at the elite orientations of U.K. newspapers (Namenwirth, 1969 ), specific issues such as vice presidential and presidential campaigns, (Blankenship, Mendez-Mendez, Guen Kang, & Giodano, 1986 ; Myers, 1982 ), the deregulation of broadcasting (Pratte & Whiting, 1986 ), and the Japanese-American relocation during the Second World War in 1942 (Chiasson, 1991 ). Studies have been made of editorial framing of issues in the U.S. press relating to race (Hannah & Gandy, 2000 ; Richardson & Lancendorfer, 2004 ), the war in Afghanistan (Ryan, 2004 ), and the medical marijuana debate (Golan, 2010 ). Analyses of the editorial framing of issues in Europe include a seven-country comparison of the communication of the European Union (EU) (Pfetsch, Adam, & Eschner, 2010 ) and analyses of opinions of the U.K. press toward the EU (Firmstone, 2009 , 2016 ).

Editorials as Texts—Persuasive Style and Content

The persuasive style and content of editorials has been evaluated by scholars to varying degrees of sophistication using a range of analytical approaches including historical, content, framing and discourse analysis. Historical analyses show that the agenda and style of U.S. editorial journalism is “heavy on politics, frequently strong in emotion and language” (Hallock, 2007 , p. 41). A U.K. journalist is quoted in Liddle’s historical account as saying “I may now have it now in my power to instil the most pernicious opinions on almost any subject, into the minds of three millions of human beings” (Liddle, 1999 , p. 2). Editorial styles in the U.S. press from 1965–1985 showed a trend toward more forceful editorials which “were taking stands, employing opinion or opinion in conjunction with information in their leads and expressing reactions or calls for action in their endings” (Hynds, 1990 , p. 311). Editorial journalism demands a distinctive writing style that differs greatly from news reporting. A Pulitzer Prize–winning editorial writer advocated a successful formula to attract readers to editorials: “Report thoroughly, think clearly, write gracefully. Be passionate in your beliefs. Be persuasive in your writing” (Gartner, 2005 ). In direct contrast to most other forms of journalism, subjectivity and opinion is not only permitted in editorials—it is expected.

Editorials are discursively structured in such a way that makes it possible to identify four key elements of framing, defined by Entman ( 1993 ) and Nelson, Clawson, and Oxley ( 1997 ): the positions or judgments that newspapers take on issues (position); the way the issue is defined as a problem and the consequences of the problem (problem definition); the agents that are identified as being responsible for or causing the problem (cause); the evaluations that are given for how the problem should be treated or remedied (treatment recommendation). Evaluating editorials in the British press using this method provided evidence that editorials are written to attempt to influence politics either indirectly, through reaching public opinion, or directly, by targeting opinions directly at politicians (Firmstone, 2009 , 2007 ). Another approach based on “political claims-making” (Koopmans & Statham, 1999 ) treats an editorial as a claim or “an instance of strategic action in the public sphere” and sees editorials as structured around demands addressed to actors or institutions, who are criticized or supported in the interests of an actor in an argumentative framing (Pfetsch, Adam, & Berkel, 2008 ; Pfetsch et al., 2010 ). Editorial pages have also been the subject of a number of discourse analyses grounded in the study of linguistics. However, with the exception of Van Dijk, few discourse studies are concerned with the dynamics of editorials as journalism or as indicators of the relationship between the press and politics. Van Dijk established a model of the argumentation style of editorials, showing they are discursively constructed to intervene in public deliberation. Editorials feature three categories: (1) defining and subjectively summarizing the situation, (2) providing an evaluation of the event or issue, (3) concluding with recommendations and expectations for solutions directed at news actors (Van Dijk, 1992 , p. 244). Most recently, a “tenacity” scoring system has been developed to measure the attention-seeking features of editorial techniques that are employed to promote editorial opinions beyond the usual text-based editorial columns (Firmstone, 2016 , 2017 ).

What Makes Editorial Journalism Unique?

The norms of professional journalism limit the intentional expression of opinions to a handful of formats published separately from news. These include comment and analysis articles (known as op-eds in the United States), letters to the editor, columns, and editorial articles. Here it is important to make a further distinction beyond the dichotomy of fact-based reporting versus opinion pieces, to explain what makes editorial journalism unique. Editorials are a distinctive format because they are the only place in a newspaper where the views of the newspaper as an organization are represented. In practice, editorials reflect the views of a small and specialist group of journalists who are included in discussions about the newspaper’s editorial line, rather than any kind of consultative process with the whole staff (see “ Routines for Issue Selection, Deciding the Agenda, and the Line and Tone of Editorial Opinion ”). In addition, editorials are the principal format for the expression of a newspaper’s partisan views. In contrast, opinions in comment and analysis pieces represent the views of individual journalists or guest commentators and fulfill different objectives. Editorials are therefore the most reliable way of measuring the collective opinion of a newspaper as an entity. Understanding the opinions of newspapers as institutions or organizations as distinct from the opinions of individual journalists is considered important by scholars who are interested in the relationship between the press and politics.

Editorials and Other Forms of Opinion Journalism

Editorial journalism can be located as a specific form of journalistic practice by considering its relationship with two other types of opinion journalism: advocacy and campaign journalism. Advocacy journalism encompasses “a broad church of subjective forms of reporting that promote social issues and causes, such as ‘muckraking’, ‘crusading’, ‘alternative’, ‘activist’, ‘peace journalism’, ‘civic’ advocacy journalism and ‘interpretive’ journalism” (Fisher, 2016 , p. 714). Some definitions of advocacy journalism also include editorial comment (Anderson, Downie, Jr., & Schudson, 2016 ). Historical accounts of the development of advocacy journalism describe the introduction of editorials as a distinct format as a response to the need to keep advocacy journalism away from objectivity-driven journalism (Waisbord, 2009 ). Although editorial journalism can be considered as a specific form of advocacy journalism, it is rarely theorized or empirically researched as such. Historically, editorial and advocacy journalism share an ethos for journalism that endeavors to effect social or political change, yet editorial journalism is distinctive from other advocacy journalism practices in significant ways. Advocacy journalists make choices as individuals to attempt to effect social change on behalf of the causes they support, in contrast to the broader, collective aims of editorial writing. Editorial journalism is the result of a shared decision-making process and reflects the partisanship and position of a newspaper, not those of an individual. Advocacy journalism is adopted by journalists who reject the pursuit of objectivity in news reporting as unrealistic. In the specific role of editorial writing, journalists do not struggle to reconcile the two opposing professional values of gatekeeper and advocate identified by Janowitz in his seminal discussion of advocacy journalism (Janowitz, 1975 ). The explicit purpose and unique identity of editorial journalism distances it from common critiques of individuals who practice advocacy journalism. In contrast, critiques of editorials focus more on how proprietors and newspapers use editorials to influence public opinion and the political process.

Editorials are an integral part of the campaign journalism practiced by some newspapers. Campaign journalism is distinct from other forms of journalism, including advocacy journalism, because it aims to influence politicians rather than inform voters, and claims to advocate in the interest of the public and/or to represent public opinion (Birks, 2010 ). Other definitions highlight the close connection between editorial journalism and campaigns in stating that campaigns are a result of a conscious editorial decision on behalf of a newspaper to intervene in policy debates, with the express intention of effecting change (Firmstone, 2008 ; Howarth, 2012 ). Campaign journalism typically involves newspapers publishing a series of campaign-branded news articles and editorials over a sustained period of time. As with editorials, the partisan nature of campaign journalism is defended against accusations of bias because it is explicitly labeled as such. It is distinguishable from “straight” news. Editorial journalism can therefore be defined as the practice of journalists who produce editorial articles that represent the collective opinion of a newspaper. This entry focuses narrowly on editorial journalism as distinct from other forms of opinion journalism.

The Significance of Editorial Journalism: Persuasive Power

The significance of editorial journalism is rooted in theories about the democratic role of newspapers and the persuasive power of the news media. Concerns about concentration of ownership, close relationships between proprietors and political elites, and the degree of political parallelism between newspapers and political parties makes newspapers an important focus for anyone interested in the role of the media in democracy. In the context of this potential persuasive power, the content produced by editorial journalists has featured most commonly in political communications research. Rooted in the effects tradition, researchers have attributed an important role to editorials in informing and shaping debate in the public sphere in four ways: (1) as an influence on readers, voters, and/or public opinion; (2) as an influence on the internal news agendas and coverage of newspapers; (3) as an influence on the agendas and coverage in other news media; (4) as an influence on political or policy agendas. Aside from these roles, the field of discourse analysis considers that editorials should be read for signs of their broader political and sociocultural function. Van Dijk argues that analyses of the argumentative structure and strategies in editorials can reveal the underlying ideologies of newspapers and the journalists who write them (Van Dijk, 1992 ). He sees editorials as “the manifestation of evaluative beliefs of newspaper editors” (Van Dijk, 1995 , p. 1).

Despite the heterogeneous nature of journalism, studies of its consequences for the construction of public knowledge and its impact on the political process rarely distinguish between different journalistic roles and news formats. What follows therefore focuses as much as is possible on evidence relating specifically to editorial journalism, but necessarily refers to political journalism more broadly at times.

Influence on Readers, Voters, and Public Opinion

Newspapers make their own decisions on what issues should be selected for debate and provide their own opinion in editorials. They are not required to report on the agendas and opinions of other actors, as in news reports. By selecting and presenting issues according to their own agenda, newspapers are able to take on an active role in public deliberations of political issues. McCombs states, “Resting on the assumption that the news media are a special kind of public institution – an institution that represents the public interest vis-à-vis the government – investigative reporting and editorial campaigns actively seek to move issues onto the public agenda” (McCombs, 1997 , p. 438).

The question of whether and how newspapers’ editorial opinions influence public opinion is complex and contentious. As with the broader question of media influence and the effects tradition, researchers have struggled to find methods and contexts that can conclusively prove a causal relationship (McDonald Ladd & Lenz, 2009 ). Research design and methodological limitations mean that interpreting the relationship between newspapers’ political opinions and those of its readers is problematic. Only a small body of research has narrowed the search for media effects to exploring the relationship between editorials and public opinion. This research concentrates on editorial coverage during elections and more specifically on the relationship between editorial endorsements of parties or candidates and voting behavior. It is also highly concentrated on the U.S. media and on “quality” papers. The evidence is mixed (McDonald Ladd & Lenz, 2009 ). Some have found that endorsements have little or no effect (Norris, 1999 ), and others suggest they only affect readers who are less engaged in politics (Hagen & Jamieson, 2000 ). Such findings are in line with overall thinking, which attributes a greater influence to the media when readers are not well informed about an issue (see Iyengar, 1991 ; Kahneman & Tversky, 1984 ; Zaller, 1992 ; Zucker, 1978 ).

In a study that claimed to overcome the multiple methodological problems that limit the strength of previous findings, McDonald Ladd and Lenz ( 2009 ) profess to provide “rare evidence that the news media exert a strong influence on mass political behavior” (McDonald Ladd & Lenz, 2009 , p. 405). Examining U.K. newspaper coverage at a time when several newspapers uncharacteristically switched their partisanship ( 1997 ), they found a persuasive effect of endorsements and slant on between 10% and 25% of readers. Two studies of senatorial campaigns in the United States claim similarly strong evidence of the effects of editorial endorsements on readers (Druckman & Parkin, 2005 ; Kahn & Kenney, 2002 ). Endorsements affect citizens’ preferences, particularly those who read daily, and incumbent candidates supported by editorial coverage were more successful than non-endorsed candidates with readers (Kahn & Kenney, 2002 ). Although they caution that their findings may not be generalizable, Druckman and Parkin ( 2005 ) found “concrete evidence that relative editorial slant can influence voters” (Druckman & Parkin, 2005 , p. 1047).

Outside the effects tradition, very little is known about the readership of editorials. Prior to the ability to measure audience metrics digitally, the industry relied on surveys to measure the popularity of editorials and the demographics of their readership. In the 1990s, these indicated that editorial pages were popular and read by over 60% of newspaper readers (Hallock, 2007 ). It is claimed that editorials are most popular with older readers and elites (Hallock, 2007 ), which confirms their potential to influence policymakers and elites. Others admit that editorial “influence is difficult to document” (Hynds, 1990 , p. 441). Having outlined how editorials influence readers, we now consider two main ways that editorial opinion can exert an influence beyond its readers: intra-media and inter-media agenda setting.

Influence on Newspapers’ Internal News Agendas and Other Coverage

It has long been argued that, regardless of whether or not the relationship is intentional, the editorial column sets the tone for the rest of the newspaper (Page, 1996b ; Rowse, 1957 ). Interviews with journalists indicate that journalists’ production of news is shaped by positions and opinions given in their newspaper’s editorials (Baisnée, 2002 ; Firmstone, 2009 ; Morgan, 1995 ). Only a handful of scholars have analyzed content to explore the relationship, known as intra-media agenda setting, between editorial views and news coverage within the same newspaper (Kahn & Kenney, 2002 ).

The search for similarities in agendas and tone or slant relates to two concerns. The first of these is that opinion and/or bias seeps into other areas of newspaper coverage that, depending on journalistic norms, are expected to be objective and impartial. If the press claims to be an objective source of straight information, then any straying into bias is seen as problematic (Druckman & Parkin, 2005 ). Several studies in the United States provide strong evidence that coverage of electoral campaigns, including the tone, the level of criticism, and support for candidates, is affected by editorial positions (Druckman & Parkin, 2005 ; Kahn & Kenney, 2002 ). In contrast to the overt bias associated with European press journalism, readers of the U.S. press expect news coverage to be impartial and free from opinion. Based on claims that voters are influenced by coverage about electoral candidates, concerns have been raised about the potential effect of “hidden bias” in coverage that reflects the editorial positions of newspapers (Kahn & Kenney, 2002 ).

The second area of research critiquing the influence of editorial opinion on news coverage extends these concerns to the principle of internal plurality. Although newspapers in the United States are permitted to provide an opinion in editorials, professional norms expect the rest of the newspaper to display a plurality of voices and views. Several studies demonstrate that op-eds replicate the opinions offered in editorials (Golan & Lukito, 2015 ). The concern is that such mimicry reinforces the editorial views of the newspaper rather than providing readers with a diversity of opinions. Homogeneity in the views and opinions offered within a newspaper prevents readers accessing the information necessary for them to consider an issue from a variety of perspectives. This limits the potential for op-eds to perform a democratic role. The separation of fact from opinion is less formalized in the European press, with a “blurry” line between editorials and news during elections (McDonald Ladd & Lenz, 2009 ). Such blurring of boundaries is, however, contentious. For example, a recent analysis showed a strong relationship between newspapers’ opinions and critical news reports about the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn during the 2017 U.K. election. Claiming that the “clear distinction between comment, conjecture and fact” required by the IPSO editorial guidelines had been ignored, the study concluded that the British press acted in “radical insularity . . . for the ethical, political and social responsibilities of journalists in a democracy” (Cammaerts, Decillia, & Magalhães, 2018 ).

The Influence of Editorials on Other News Media, Political Elites, and Policymakers

A less direct yet important way that editorial opinions influence debate in the public sphere is when issues or opinions from editorials feature in the coverage of other news media. Advancing the original theory of agenda setting, inter-media agenda setting refers to the influence that newspapers can have beyond their own readers by shaping the agenda of other media outlets (McCombs, 2005 ). Although they rarely distinguish between editorial and news content, studies of press agendas describe inter-media agenda setting operating in two ways that are applicable to editorials.

First, journalists at rival news organizations take newspapers’ agendas as cues for story selection. Using one another as sources, the news media literally “look over their shoulders” at one another (McCombs, 2004 ). Studies grounded in this comparatively under-researched branch of agenda setting have consistently identified a strong relationship between issues covered by newspapers and the news agendas of television and radio news (Golan, 2006 ). The influence of newspapers on television news agendas is stronger than the other way around (Golan, 2006 ; Vliegenthart & Walgrave, 2008 ). In specific relation to opinion, given the open partisanship of the U.K. press, the inter-media agenda-setting power of newspapers, particularly broadsheets, amplifies their opinion-leading role (Cushion, Kilby, Thomas, Morani, & Sambrook, 2018 ). Interviews with journalists confirm that they are motivated to write editorials in response to editorials published by other newspapers (Firmstone, 2008 ).

Second, the reach of editorial opinions is expanded when other news outlets, particularly radio and TV news, repeat newspaper coverage in special features where broadcast journalists review the day’s newspapers. An overarching reason to be concerned about the relationship between editorials and other news is that it might allow partisanship to seep into coverage that would otherwise be impartial. This is particularly the case in the United Kingdom, where a reliance on, or repetition of, coverage from the disproportionately right-wing U.K. press is thought to threaten the impartiality of broadcast news, with clear “ideological implications” (Cushion et al., 2018 ; Renton & Scholsberg, 2017 ).

The fourth and final influence ascribed to editorials relates to elite opinion. According to British journalists, politicians monitor editorials and sometimes contact journalists about the opinions voiced in them (Firmstone, 2008 ). Although the fact that newspapers’ comments are “received” by political actors does not establish that newspapers influence the actions of policymakers, it suggests that newspapers’ editorial agendas are “heard” by key influencers. Writing about news in general, scholars have long claimed that newspapers play a role as opinion leaders for politicians and political elites, and are influential because they are used by politicians as an indicator of public opinion (Cohen, 1983 ; Linsky, 1986 ).

Newspapers as Independent Political Actors

Although theories of the power of the press have paid limited attention to the specific function of editorial opinion, a relatively new strand of research in political communication illustrates the significance of newspapers’ editorial opinions. Highlighting the persuasive and evaluative functions of the media, scholars have recently drawn attention to the independent role of newspapers in providing opinion and pushing issues onto the agenda (Gurevitch & Blumler, 1990 ; Eilders, 1997 , 2000 , 2002 ; Firmstone, 2008 , 2016 ; McCombs, 1997 , Page, 1996a ; Pfetsch et al., 2010 ; Price, 1992 ; Statham, 2007 ). Eilders argues that through interpretative, evaluative, and potentially persuasive content, the media provide orientation to the process of opinion formation by making judgments regarding policy, political actors, and political decisions (Eilders, 2000 ). Scholars suggest that newspapers should be considered as independent political actors who can legitimately use their right to express their view in the public sphere to pursue their own political interests and goals.

In a seminal article, Page suggests that questions regarding “what kinds of media act in this way, under what circumstances, and concerning what issues” remain unanswered (Page, 1996a , p. 23). Theorizing newspapers as active and independent political actors in the political process through their editorial role underpins the need to further research editorial journalism to address questions about the issues newspapers choose to present as important, how newspapers present their evaluation of issues, and what influences newspapers’ opinions.

What Shapes Newspapers’ Editorial Positions?

Despite the potentially powerful influence of editorial journalism on public opinion and the democratic process, sociological research into the factors that influence newspapers’ editorial opinions remains scarce (Firmstone, 2008 ). For example, much critique of the opinion-leading role of the British Eurosceptic press is based on suppositions deduced from the content of news coverage and tends to point to the fairly obvious input of proprietors as the most significant determinants of such coverage (Firmstone, 2008 ). Studies of journalism to date provide little empirical evidence relating to the specialist journalistic activity of producing editorial opinion. Organizational studies of journalism have concentrated on front-line reporters, with the result that little is known about the interactions between editorial and higher level journalists (Firmstone, 2009 ; Reese, 1991 ; Schudson, 2000 ). Although scholars have established that news values are a central organizing concept of news production routines (Galtung & Ruge, 1965 ; Harcup & O’Neill, 2017 ) and professional journalistic roles (Hallin & Mancini, 2004 ; Tumber & Prentoulis, 2005 ), they have not yet investigated the concepts that shape the routine production of editorial content. Similarly, organizational policies are known to play an important role in shaping news reporting (Gans, 1979 ; Soloski, 1989 ), but we have little understanding of how journalists interpret editorial policies in relation to editorial journalism. These gaps have only been partially addressed by a handful of relatively recent empirical studies using interviews with editorial journalists in the United Kingdom (Firmstone, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 ) and the United States (Hallock, 2007 ), a comparative study based on interviews with a range of journalists including leader writers in seven European countries (Statham, 2007 ), and an ethnography of U.S. editorial boards (Meltzer, 2007 ). Some of the most important questions asked about editorial journalism relate to the factors that shape editorial opinions. Price suggests that the “activist role of the media, especially newspapers, ensures continuing concern over possible biases in news and editorial practices, owing to the political leanings of network executives, publishers, producers, or rank-and-file journalists” (Price, 1992 , p. 82).

Routines for Issue Selection, Deciding the Agenda, and the Line and Tone of Editorial Opinion

In contrast to news values, very little is known about the selection criteria routinely applied in editorial journalism. A sociological analysis of editorial journalism in the United Kingdom identified four editorial values that guided the selection of issues for comment: (1) assessment of news values (topicality), (2) level of editorial importance, (3) impact on readers and the United Kingdom, and (4) salience in the wider media debate (Firmstone, 2008 , 2009 ). Judgments regarding the topicality of an issue are based on common journalistic perceptions of news values. The level of editorial importance of an issue is determined by four organizational specific circumstances: (1) the collective interest of the leader-writing group, (2) the interests of individual journalists within the group, (3) the interests of the editor, and (4) editorial policies such as relationship to the paper’s marketing strategy and campaigning policies. This leads us to the organizational structures of editorial journalism.

Day-to-day decisions about issue selection and the line to be taken are made at daily meetings known as leader conferences in the United Kingdom and editorial boards in the United States. The practice of editorial writing has evolved from being the domain of a single owner or an individual journalist who wrote everything in a very small paper to the current situation where opinions are reached by consensus in editorials boards (Hallock, 2007 ). Editorial boards, which include the editor, publisher, and other newspaper executives, discuss and debate issues in daily meetings until a consensus representing the institutional agenda of the paper is reached. Although the editor makes the final decision, decisions are reached through a consultative process in the leader conference at the vast majority of British newspapers. However, there are significant variations between national newspapers in terms of how well defined and known the “line” of a newspaper is on any given issue, how democratic the collective editorial decision-making process is, and consensus on the issue within the team (Firmstone, 2008 ).

Partisanship as expressed in editorials—specifically, support for parties at election time—is strongly dependent on historical ties to political parties and traditional alignments. It is rare for newspapers to break with tradition to declare support for a different political party. Newspapers base editorial positions regarding social and political issues on their traditional partisan stance, but some questions about contentious topics that cause division within political parties require internal debate (Firmstone, 2008 ; Funt, 2017 ). For example, debates over Britain’s membership of the EU did not fall neatly into the traditional partisan divisions of left and right. Many editorial boards deliberated about endorsing Donald Trump despite their historical Republican allegiances (Funt, 2017 ).

The Influence of Proprietors, Ownership, and Editors

A contested point is the extent to which editorial columns represent the voice of a newspaper in the interests of its readers or whether this public voice is expressed more in the interests of the proprietor and/or individual journalists (including editors) who wish to influence readers or political elites. The evidence suggests a mixed picture, with owners and proprietors having a strong influence over the direction of partisanship, but less impact on how that opinion is expressed. The most significant changes in the direction of newspapers’ editorial lines and partisanship usually occur as a result of a change in ownership . However, a change in ownership does not always result in changes to the editorial policy of the paper, especially when such changes may alienate readers. Editorials at newspapers serving local communities in the United States were described as serving a community’s conscience by setting its priorities and serving as a community sounding board (Hallock, 2007 ). In some cases, specifically the contentious issue of the EU, the editorial importance of an issue to a newspaper was seen to override considerations of the perceived level of interest among readers (Firmstone, 2009 ). Candidate endorsements may reflect the opinion of the proprietor, whether an individual or a corporate entity, the editor, an individual editorial writer, or a collective decision of an editorial board (Firmstone, 2008 ; Funt, 2017 ). Journalists admit that proprietors often take an interest in editorial opinions, but they commonly report that such influence never results in significant changes to the overall message of an editorial (Firmstone, 2008 ; Funt, 2017 ). Much research in the 1980s in North America centered on concerns that the increasing concentration of ownership of newspapers by corporate “chains” would lead to a reduced diversity of editorial opinions and to less vigorously politically engaged editorials because of fears about offending readers and advertisers (Demers, 1996 , 1998 ; Lacy, 1991 ; Thrift, 1977 ). This so-called editorial vigor hypothesis was largely disproved with studies finding no relationship between editorial page content and chain ownership (Demers, 1996 , p. 870).

A study of the influential role of other factors on opinion, such as individuals and the implications of organizational routines, has questioned the accuracy of assuming that the editorial opinions of the British press are simply explained by the influence of proprietors (Firmstone, 2008 ). Aside from decisions about the overall position of a newspaper, proprietorial influence is minimal and does not account for the way that editorials are written. For instance, the study found no evidence of any direct influence of proprietors in the selection of issues for comment, the range of issues commented on, and the way in which issues were framed nationally or otherwise. On the specific topic of Europe, Statham’s comparative study concluded that, with the exception of one paper in the United Kingdom, journalists did not consider the political stance of proprietors to be more of a consideration when commenting on Europe than when commenting on other issues (Statham, 2007 , p. 470). Key journalists at some newspapers may have an equal or greater influence on editorial opinions than proprietors (Firmstone, 2008 ). Certainly, in the day-to-day production of opinion, individual journalists have greater opportunities to directly shape newspapers’ opinions than is attributed to them by studies of news production. Although news production studies see individuals as “replaceable cogs in the wheel” and suggest that “news changes very little when the individuals who make it are changed” (Golding & Elliot, 1979 , p. 209), the opposite is true of editorial journalism (Firmstone, 2008 ). Moreover, in cases where newspapers’ attempts to influence are part of focused editorial campaigns, individual journalists can be pivotal in formulating the subject and the style of campaigning policy (Firmstone, 2008 ). With specific regard to the influence of editors, a content analysis of editorials at one U.S. newspaper under three different editors concluded that “the geographical and persuasive positions of a newspaper’s editorials change considerably with each new editor, even though subject areas from editor to editor may receive the same priority” (Windhauser, Norton, & Rhodes, 1983 , p. 583).

Editorial Journalism and Diversity

Although there are few studies that consider the backgrounds of editorial writers separately from other journalists, there are strong indications that editorial journalism lacks diversity and gender equality. The anonymous nature of editorial columns (in most countries) removes the possibility of attributing gender, or indeed any other individual trait. All editorial journalists interviewed for a study of the British national press were male, white, and predominantly senior (Firmstone, 2008 , 2009 ). Editorial boards in the United States are male dominated, with few coming from ethnic minority backgrounds (Harp, Bachmann, & Locke, 2014 ), and have been described as “cantankerous males of fairly mature years” (Duff, 2008 , p. 232). Given that the personal attitudes and values of journalists significantly influence newspapers’ opinion leading (Firmstone, 2008 ), it is concerning that editorial journalism is a male-dominated domain. In a discourse analysis of editorials about race, Van Dijk argued that the dominance of white, male, middle-class leader writers results in the reproduction and legitimization of their dominance of in society (Van Dijk, 1992 ).

Discussion of the Literature

As is clear from this entry, the investigation of editorial journalism as a distinctive practice has been largely overlooked and conflated with broader studies of news and journalism. In the historiography of research about editorials, relatively small pockets of research have focused on the editorial function of newspapers along three parallel trajectories. First, based on the assumptions of media effects theories about the potential consequences of editorials for public knowledge and democratic processes, research has been heavily skewed toward measurements and analyses of the content of editorial articles. Within this trajectory, there has been a strong contribution from political communications scholars on the effects of editorial endorsements of candidates and parties at election time. Although editorials routinely engage in debates that encompass a far wider range of political and social issues, far fewer studies have analyzed editorial opinion outside of election periods.

Ongoing normative questions about the role and performance of the press have also motivated research that analyzes content to evaluate the relationship between editorial opinion, bias, and objective reporting. A second content trajectory rooted in the tradition of discourse analysis has singled out editorial articles as having a unique argumentation structure Van Dijk ( 1992 ). The majority of discourse studies have analyzed the language and semantics of editorials with the aim of understanding the way a specific issue has been communicated. Others have analyzed the structure of editorials as a text and as a series of interactions between the writer and the reader (Bolívar, 1994 ), as an assessment of the rhetorical structure. See Le ( 2010 ) for a useful overview of linguistic studies. Third, a relatively small body of journalism studies research has focused on the routines, practices, and role orientations of editorial journalists and newspaper editorial boards. It is notable that, with two exceptions (Firmstone, 2008 , 2009 ; Hallock, 2007 ), empirical analyses have analyzed either editorial content or investigated editorial practices, not both. Perhaps more importantly, aside from attempts to measure the relationship between readership of specific newspapers and voting preferences, the audiences of editorials have been entirely neglected. In addition to scholarly approaches, insights into the world of editorial journalism from the perspective of industry commentators and in the memoirs of veteran editorial journalists also provide valuable understanding (Funt, 2017 ; Gartner, 2005 ; Hynds, 1990 , 1995 ).

Despite following different trajectories, existing research arrives at a shared point of departure for the future. Editorial journalism as a distinct and potentially powerful genre and practice merits far more attention than it has received to date. In particular, theorizing newspapers as active and independent political actors underpins the need for further research into editorial journalism (Firmstone, 2009 ). In addition, sociological research including ethnography, interviews, and participant observation is needed to find out more about the practice of editorial journalism and influences on editorial opinions (Firmstone, 2008 ). More qualitative research is needed to look beyond newspapers’ editorial agendas and the salience of issues in order to understand the decisions behind such choices. Understanding is severely limited to the U.S. context. Future research must expand our understanding of editorial journalism into different journalistic cultures and media systems, and perhaps most urgently, pursue a de-Westernization agenda.

Finally, the rise of online news media requires a broadening of the current research agenda in three main directions. First, editorial opinion emerged as a specific role assumed by newspapers in the media systems of liberal democracies. Its practice continues to be shaped by this history as well as regulatory contexts. Professional norms and regulations for the relationship between editorial opinion and news at net native news organizations are under development. Future research should shine light on how net native news organizations and regulatory policies develop in response to age-old questions about objectivity, bias, and partisanship. Second, as has already begun, inter-media agenda-setting studies should expand to include the relationship between newspapers’ editorial opinions and news in the networked news media ecology. Early research suggests that partisan online media may be replacing newspapers as agenda setters for the mainstream media (Meraz, 2011 ), with others finding a continuing dominance of mainstream media (Rogstad, 2016 ; Sjøvaag, Stavelin, Karlsson, & Kammer, 2018 ). Third, the digital flattening out of the once distinctive physical geographies used to separate fact from opinion in newspapers raises a host of questions about how the opinion-leading role of legacy newspapers will operate in future online news environments.

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  • Ryan, M. (2004). Framing the war against terrorism: U.S. newspaper editorials and military action in Afghanistan. Gazette: The International Journal for Communication Studies, 6 6(5), 363–382.
  • Schudson, M. (1978). Discovering the news: A social history of American newspapers . New York, NY: Basic Books.
  • Schudson, M. (2000). The sociology of news production revisited (again). In J. Curran & M. Gurevitch (Eds.), Mass media and society (3rd ed.). London: Arnold.
  • Seymour Ure, C. (1997). Editorial opinion in the national press. Parliamentary Affairs, 50 (4), 586–608.
  • Seymour Ure, C. (2002). New labour and the media. In A. King (Ed.), Britain at the polls 2001 . Chatham, NJ: Chatham.
  • Sjøvaag, H. , Stavelin, E. , Karlsson, M. , & Kammer, A. (2018). The hyperlinked Scandinavian news ecology: The unequal terms forged by the structural properties of digitalization . Digital Journalism .
  • Soloski, J. (1989). News reporting and professionalism: Some constraints on the reporting of news. Media, Culture & Society, 11 , 207–28.
  • Statham, P. (2007). Journalists as commentators on European politics: Educators, partisans or ideologues. European Journal of Communication, 9 (4), 398–422.
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  • Van Dijk, T. A. (1992). Racism and argumentation: Race riot rhetoric in tabloid editorials. In F. H. Van Eemereb , R. Grootendorst , J. A. Blair , & C. A. Willard (Eds.), illuminated . Amsterdam, The Netherlands: SICSAT.
  • Van Dijk, T. A. (1995). Opinions and ideologies in editorials . Paper for the 4th International Symposium of Critical Discourse Analysis, Language, Social Life and Critical Thought. Athens, Greece, December 14–16.
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1. Note that the details about specific countries were obtained from a quick survey of academic colleagues around the world rather than substantial research so should be treated as indicative rather than decisive. These initial insights into country level variations are intended to show that editorial practices are far from uniform.

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Here’s What We Think: Editorials and Opinion Articles

In this activity, students learn the purpose of editorials and opinion articles and evaluate their effectiveness.

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  • Current Events


  • Find out what the class already knows about editorials and opinion articles. Tell them: Most newspapers have an editorial and opinion section. These articles express opinions and ideas. They do not necessarily report news; rather, they comment on current events. Editorials are written by a member or members of the editorial staff of a newspaper and express the opinion or idea of the newspaper as a whole. Opinion articles, sometimes called op-eds because of their traditional position opposite the newspaper’s editorial page, express the opinion or idea of only the person or people writing the article.
  • Discuss: What’s the purpose of editorials and op-eds? What’s the difference between fact and opinion?
  • Explain, interpret or inform
  • Praise, commend
  • Argue, persuade, propose a solution or call for action
  • Criticize, identify a problem
  • These can be chosen in advance to save time or students can find their own articles.
  • Give the class time to read the articles and complete the worksheet.
  • Discuss their work as a class.
  • Here’s What We Think: Editorials and Opinion Articles worksheet (download), one per student
  • Newspapers, magazines or internet access

Discussion Questions

  • Which type of editorial/op-ed was most common?
  • How can an editorial or opinion article open or advance dialogue on an issue?
  • What makes an editorial or opinion piece effective?
  • What influence do they have? How do you know?
  • Compare and contrast editorial and opinion articles.

Extension Activity

Write an editorial. Have students outline or write an editorial. First, have students brainstorm  important issues in their school or community. Write the ideas on a board. Have students vote to narrow the list to one issue. Then divide students into small groups; each group will be “an editorial board” for their school newspaper and decide their position on the issue. Together they should outline an editorial. (Optional: Have students write the full editorial in class or as homework. They may need to do research to get additional facts.)  Follow this format:

  • Begin with an objective statement/introduction of the issue or controversy.
  • Give and discuss the opposing viewpoint. (Who are the opponents? What are their opinions?)
  • Refute the opposition’s beliefs.
  • State your paper’s position and reasoning. Use facts and details.
  • Offer a realistic solution.
  • Conclude concisely.

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opinion essay vs editorial

Many teachers think argumentative and persuasive writing are the same. Some would go as far as to say that persuasive writing has just turned into argumentative because of Common Core (not true). And where does opinion writing fall into all of this?

First of all, if you are a 1st-5th grade teacher, Common Core only expects students to master writing opinion pieces and work on short research projects. Argumentative writing does not come into play until 6th grade. Oh and those research projects students do in 1st-5th, you better believe those skills come into play when students start writing argumentatively in the upper grades! The graphic below describes the differences between opinion, persuasive and argumentative writing.

As you can see argumentative writing relies a lot more on reasoning and evidence which comes from a lot of in-depth annotation of articles.

Persuasive writing does not necessarily require all that much research. Opinion writing is the foundation for both. I also believe that opinion writing is dull! Persuasive writing requires an audience and can include debates which can be motivating and fun for students.

Just because persuasive writing is not mentioned in the Common Core doesn’t mean teachers should write it off entirely!

The units below make learning these skills FUN and RELEVANT for your students!

opinion essay vs editorial

$ 13.00

opinion essay vs editorial

$ 23.00

Common Core is designed to build upon skills learned from previous grades and this is very obvious when comparing the opinion and argumentative writing standards W.1, W.2, W.3.1.A, W.4.1.A, & W.6.1 Check it out…

1st Grade-Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion and provide some sense of closure.

2nd Grade- Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.

3rd Grade-Introduce the topic or text they are writing about, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons.

4th Grade-Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose. 5th Grade-Exact same as 4th EXCEPT: 4th-Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details. 5th Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts and details.

6th Grade-Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. Here are some writing prompts for each type of writing…

What is the best book you ever read or movie you’ve ever seen? What is your favorite animal?

What is your favorite food?

What are the most important qualities in a best friend?

Who is your hero?

Persuasive Convince your parents to buy you a new toy or get a new pet. Convince your teacher to let the class watch a movie on Friday.

Convince your principal to change the homework policy at your school.

Convince your mayor to build a new park in your neighborhood.

Convince the President to come visit your town.

Argumentative Should schools go completely digital?

Is social media out of control?

Should kids be allowed to wear whatever they want?

Should certain animals have the same rights as humans?

Is climate change real?

I hope I cleared up some things for you! If so please feel free to share this post out by clicking one of the purple social media buttons below!

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How to Convince an Audience: Opinion versus Persuasion

How to Convince an Audience: Opinion versus Persuasion


You may be very good at expressing your opinions, especially when you want to change someone’s mind.

What you may not know is that if you truly want to change someone’s mind, you have to stop thinking about your opinion and start thinking about your audience.

This tutorial, with a free infographic to download, will show you very clearly the difference between writing an opinion and writing to persuade an audience.

Opinion versus Persuasion

Writing or expressing an opinion is all about what you like; convincing another person to do something is all about what they need to hear to be persuaded.

Here’s an infographic that shows the difference between writing an opinion and writing to persuade. After the infographic, I’ve included a short writing exercise you can do quickly. My writing class just did it, and they had fun sharing their ideas about alligators, snow leopards, snakes, and so forth.

Your students will learn the difference between opinion versus persuasion with this fun infographic about dogs. Then they all do an easy writing exercise.

To download the infographic for the tutorial, click here .

Writing exercise: Do this one step at a time. 

1. Write your opinion of an animal you love or hate. It can be a particular animal (“I love my pet alligator”) or all animals of a kind (“I hate all snakes”). Then make a list of about 3-5 reasons why you love or hate this animal. When you have finished your list, put it aside.

Note: When you have strong feelings about your topic, writing is easier. One student in my class had a hard time coming up with three reasons why she disliked her animal. I asked her to think about an animal she had some strong feelings about—really loved or truly hated. She switched her animal to snakes and wrote four wonderful reasons why she hated snakes.

2. Now you are going to persuade a friend to buy this animal as a pet. Make a list of 3-5 reasons why your friend should buy this animal as a pet. Or, if you wrote about a hated animal, persuade a friend NOT to buy this animal as a pet. Make a list of 3-5 reasons why your friend should avoid this animal as a pet.

3. Make a Venn diagram like the one in the infographic, if you wish. Look at both lists. How many reasons are the same in both lists? How many are different? WHY are they different?

By now I think you see that when you write to persuade others, you will be more effective if you make your list of points fit your audience. Take yourself out of the equation and try to connect your audience with your topic.

If you want to take this lesson further and write a short persuasive essay, you’ll find a great list of 100 persuasion topics here .

More tutorials on persuasive writing:

Avoid these three mistakes >> Three powerful persuasion tools >> Three effective persuasion strategies advertisers and politicians use >> 5 powerful strategies found in an important speech >>

You’ll find this practical lesson and others in The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School.

Note: Emma L. helped with the opinion/persuasion points on the infographic. Print


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Guest Essay

Jamie Raskin: How to Force Justices Alito and Thomas to Recuse Themselves in the Jan. 6 Cases

A white chain in the foreground, with the pillars of the Supreme Court Building in the background.

By Jamie Raskin

Mr. Raskin represents Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He taught constitutional law for more than 25 years and was the lead prosecutor in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Many people have gloomily accepted the conventional wisdom that because there is no binding Supreme Court ethics code, there is no way to force Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas to recuse themselves from the Jan. 6 cases that are before the court.

Justices Alito and Thomas are probably making the same assumption.

But all of them are wrong.

It seems unfathomable that the two justices could get away with deciding for themselves whether they can be impartial in ruling on cases affecting Donald Trump’s liability for crimes he is accused of committing on Jan. 6. Justice Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, was deeply involved in the Jan. 6 “stop the steal” movement. Above the Virginia home of Justice Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, flew an upside-down American flag — a strong political statement among the people who stormed the Capitol. Above the Alitos’ beach home in New Jersey flew another flag that has been adopted by groups opposed to President Biden.

Justices Alito and Thomas face a groundswell of appeals beseeching them not to participate in Trump v. United States , the case that will decide whether Mr. Trump enjoys absolute immunity from criminal prosecution, and Fischer v. United States , which will decide whether Jan. 6 insurrectionists — and Mr. Trump — can be charged under a statute that criminalizes “corruptly” obstructing an official proceeding. (Justice Alito said on Wednesday that he would not recuse himself from Jan. 6-related cases.)

Everyone assumes that nothing can be done about the recusal situation because the highest court in the land has the lowest ethical standards — no binding ethics code or process outside of personal reflection. Each justice decides for him- or herself whether he or she can be impartial.

Of course, Justices Alito and Thomas could choose to recuse themselves — wouldn’t that be nice? But begging them to do the right thing misses a far more effective course of action.

The U.S. Department of Justice — including the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, an appointed U.S. special counsel and the solicitor general, all of whom were involved in different ways in the criminal prosecutions underlying these cases and are opposing Mr. Trump’s constitutional and statutory claims — can petition the other seven justices to require Justices Alito and Thomas to recuse themselves not as a matter of grace but as a matter of law.

The Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland can invoke two powerful textual authorities for this motion: the Constitution of the United States, specifically the due process clause, and the federal statute mandating judicial disqualification for questionable impartiality, 28 U.S.C. Section 455. The Constitution has come into play in several recent Supreme Court decisions striking down rulings by stubborn judges in lower courts whose political impartiality has been reasonably questioned but who threw caution to the wind to hear a case anyway. This statute requires potentially biased judges throughout the federal system to recuse themselves at the start of the process to avoid judicial unfairness and embarrassing controversies and reversals.

The constitutional and statutory standards apply to Supreme Court justices. The Constitution, and the federal laws under it, is the “ supreme law of the land ,” and the recusal statute explicitly treats Supreme Court justices as it does other judges: “Any justice, judge or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The only justices in the federal judiciary are the ones on the Supreme Court.

This recusal statute, if triggered, is not a friendly suggestion. It is Congress’s command, binding on the justices, just as the due process clause is. The Supreme Court cannot disregard this law just because it directly affects one or two of its justices. Ignoring it would trespass on the constitutional separation of powers because the justices would essentially be saying that they have the power to override a congressional command.

When the arguments are properly before the court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Sonia Sotomayor will have both a constitutional obligation and a statutory obligation to enforce recusal standards.

Indeed, there is even a compelling argument based on case law that Chief Justice Roberts and the other unaffected justices should raise the matter of recusal on their own, or sua sponte. Numerous circuit courts have agreed with the Eighth Circuit that this is the right course of action when members of an appellate court are aware of “ overt acts ” of a judge reflecting personal bias. Cases like this stand for the idea that appellate jurists who see something should say something instead of placing all the burden on parties in a case who would have to risk angering a judge by bringing up the awkward matter of potential bias and favoritism on the bench.

But even if no member of the court raises the issue of recusal, the urgent need to deal with it persists. Once it is raised, the court would almost surely have to find that the due process clause and Section 455 compel Justices Alito and Thomas to recuse themselves. To arrive at that substantive conclusion, the justices need only read their court’s own recusal decisions.

In one key 5-to-3 Supreme Court case from 2016, Williams v. Pennsylvania, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained why judicial bias is a defect of constitutional magnitude and offered specific objective standards for identifying it. Significantly, Justices Alito and Thomas dissented from the majority’s ruling.

The case concerned the bias of the chief justice of Pennsylvania, who had been involved as a prosecutor on the state’s side in an appellate death penalty case that was before him. Justice Kennedy found that the judge’s refusal to recuse himself when asked to do so violated due process. Justice Kennedy’s authoritative opinion on recusal illuminates three critical aspects of the current controversy.

First, Justice Kennedy found that the standard for recusal must be objective because it is impossible to rely on the affected judge’s introspection and subjective interpretations. The court’s objective standard requires recusal when the likelihood of bias on the part of the judge “is too high to be constitutionally tolerable,” citing an earlier case. “This objective risk of bias,” according to Justice Kennedy, “is reflected in the due process maxim that ‘no man can be a judge in his own case.’” A judge or justice can be convinced of his or her own impartiality but also completely missing what other people are seeing.

Second, the Williams majority endorsed the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct as an appropriate articulation of the Madisonian standard that “no man can be a judge in his own cause.” Model Code Rule 2.11 on judicial disqualification says that a judge “shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” This includes, illustratively, cases in which the judge “has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party,” a married judge knows that “the judge’s spouse” is “a person who has more than a de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding” or the judge “has made a public statement, other than in a court proceeding, judicial decision or opinion, that commits or appears to commit the judge to reach a particular result.” These model code illustrations ring a lot of bells at this moment.

Third and most important, Justice Kennedy found for the court that the failure of an objectively biased judge to recuse him- or herself is not “harmless error” just because the biased judge’s vote is not apparently determinative in the vote of a panel of judges. A biased judge contaminates the proceeding not just by the casting and tabulation of his or her own vote but by participating in the body’s collective deliberations and affecting, even subtly, other judges’ perceptions of the case.

Justice Kennedy was emphatic on this point : “It does not matter whether the disqualified judge’s vote was necessary to the disposition of the case. The fact that the interested judge’s vote was not dispositive may mean only that the judge was successful in persuading most members of the court to accept his or her position — an outcome that does not lessen the unfairness to the affected party.”

Courts generally have found that any reasonable doubts about a judge’s partiality must be resolved in favor of recusal. A judge “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” While recognizing that the “challenged judge enjoys a margin of discretion,” the courts have repeatedly held that “doubts ordinarily ought to be resolved in favor of recusal.” After all, the reputation of the whole tribunal and public confidence in the judiciary are both on the line.

Judge David Tatel of the D.C. Circuit emphasized this fundamental principle in 2019 when his court issued a writ of mandamus to force recusal of a military judge who blithely ignored at least the appearance of a glaring conflict of interest. He stated : “Impartial adjudicators are the cornerstone of any system of justice worthy of the label. And because ‘deference to the judgments and rulings of courts depends upon public confidence in the integrity and independence of judges,’ jurists must avoid even the appearance of partiality.” He reminded us that to perform its high function in the best way, as Justice Felix Frankfurter stated, “justice must satisfy the appearance of justice.”

The Supreme Court has been especially disposed to favor recusal when partisan politics appear to be a prejudicial factor even when the judge’s impartiality has not been questioned. In Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. , from 2009, the court held that a state supreme court justice was constitutionally disqualified from a case in which the president of a corporation appearing before him had helped to get him elected by spending $3 million promoting his campaign. The court, through Justice Kennedy, asked whether, quoting a 1975 decision, “under a realistic appraisal of psychological tendencies and human weakness,” the judge’s obvious political alignment with a party in a case “poses such a risk of actual bias or prejudgment that the practice must be forbidden if the guarantee of due process is to be adequately implemented.”

The federal statute on disqualification, Section 455(b) , also makes recusal analysis directly applicable to bias imputed to a spouse’s interest in the case. Ms. Thomas and Mrs. Alito (who, according to Justice Alito, is the one who put up the inverted flag outside their home) meet this standard. A judge must recuse him- or herself when a spouse “is known by the judge to have an interest in a case that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.”

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Chief Justice Roberts assured America that “judges are like umpires.”

But professional baseball would never allow an umpire to continue to officiate the World Series after learning that the pennant of one of the two teams competing was flying in the front yard of the umpire’s home. Nor would an umpire be allowed to call balls and strikes in a World Series game after the umpire’s wife tried to get the official score of a prior game in the series overthrown and canceled out to benefit the losing team. If judges are like umpires, then they should be treated like umpires, not team owners, fans or players.

Justice Barrett has said she wants to convince people “that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks.” Justice Alito himself declared the importance of judicial objectivity in his opinion for the majority in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overruling Roe v. Wade — a bit of self-praise that now rings especially hollow.

But the Constitution and Congress’s recusal statute provide the objective framework of analysis and remedy for cases of judicial bias that are apparent to the world, even if they may be invisible to the judges involved. This is not really optional for the justices.

I look forward to seeing seven members of the court act to defend the reputation and integrity of the institution.

Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He taught constitutional law for more than 25 years and was the lead prosecutor in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .


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    An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays. Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and ...

  6. How to write an op-ed or column

    Topic and theme. Every successful op-ed piece or column must have a clearly defined topic and theme. The topic is the person, place, issue, incident or thing that is the primary focus of the column. The topic is usually stated in the first paragraph. The theme is the big, overarching idea of the column.

  7. PDF Writing Center Quick reference Opinion Columns and Editorials

    Editorials are usually written by the publisher or an editorial board member for the media outlet. They represent the view of the media outlet's publisher or board, rather than an individual writer. Editorials are usually unsigned, unlike an opinion column, which has a byline. Note that social-media posts are different from an op-ed in form ...

  8. How to Write an Opinion Essay: Structure, Examples

    Opinion essay introduction. Address the audience directly, and state the subject matter. Reference a speech, poem, book, or play. Include the author's name and date of publication in brackets. Thesis. 1 or 2 sentences to make up a short description. 1 or 2 summarizing sentences of the entire paper.

  9. How to Write an Opinion Essay: Examples, Structure, & Tips

    Use formal style. When writing an opinion essay, you should use a formal style, avoiding slang and colloquial language. It means using proper grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary suitable for an academic setting. Choose a side on the issue. You should take a clear stance on a particular topic in your essay.

  10. Opinion Writing: Everything You Need To Know (+ 8 Examples)

    Opinion writing is a powerful type of writing that helps you convey your opinion to the audience in the most effective and compelling manner. It has a specific format: Thesis statement. Introduction. Body. Conclusion. It also consists of structural elements such as. Arguments. Evidence.

  11. Differences Between An Argumentative Essay And An Opinion Essay

    The main difference between an opinion essay and an argumentative essay is that an opinion essay doesn't have any research behind it—it simply states your own personal viewpoint about something. This could be a person, place or thing (or all three). For example: This is my favorite restaurant because I love their shrimp fettuccine alfredo ...

  12. What's the difference between an editorial, an op-ed (opinion piece

    An editorial is a periodical article that gives the opinions of the editors or publishers.Many US publishers label them as "Opinion." Opinion pieces are sometimes editorials, but are often written by members of the community.. Letters to the editor are short (rarely over 200 words) and are meant to be published quickly in response to articles or news that publication recently put out.

  13. How to Write an Editorial?

    An Editorial is defined as an opinion or a view of a member of the editorial board or any senior or reputed faculty written in a journal or newspaper. The statement reflects the opinion of the journal and is considered to be an option maker. If you have been asked to write an editorial it means that you are an expert on that topic.

  14. What is the difference between an opinion paper and a research paper

    Apr 14, 2017 109886. In an opinion paper, you will focus on a topic about which you have personal thoughts, beliefs, or feelings. Your goal is to persuade your reader that your position on this topic is the best one. You won't accomplish that goal with a rant or diatribe. Instead, you will need to support your claim with facts, statistics ...

  15. Opinion

    New York Times Opinion columnists, editorials and guest essays. Analysis from David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, Charles Blow, Paul Krugman and others.

  16. How to write perspective pieces, commentaries, and opinion articles for

    Structure of a perspective, opinion, or commentary article. A perspective, opinion, or commentary is based on ideas, opinions, and insights, and hence does not follow a strict structure like the IMRaD. As long as the ideas flow logically, the author is free to structure the article as he feels.

  17. Editorial Journalism and Newspapers' Editorial Opinions

    Editorial styles in the U.S. press from 1965-1985 showed a trend toward more forceful editorials which "were taking stands, employing opinion or opinion in conjunction with information in their leads and expressing reactions or calls for action in their endings" (Hynds, 1990, p. 311). Editorial journalism demands a distinctive writing ...

  18. Here's What We Think: Editorials and Opinion Articles

    Tell them editorials and opinion articles are often categorized into four types: Ones that: Explain, interpret or inform. Praise, commend. Argue, persuade, propose a solution or call for action. Criticize, identify a problem. Have each student read three editorials or opinion articles. These can be chosen in advance to save time or students can ...

  19. An opinion essay

    Opinion essay First of all I think play videogames is a good think to pas the time doing somethink. Is very fun play videogames, I love it and you can play the same game with your friends online. You can convine play videogames with do sport because when you play videogames you are sitting in a chair.

  20. Opinion, Persuasive or Argumentative Writing?

    Persuasive writing does not necessarily require all that much research. Opinion writing is the foundation for both. I also believe that opinion writing is dull! Persuasive writing requires an audience and can include debates which can be motivating and fun for students. Just because persuasive writing is not mentioned in the Common Core doesn ...

  21. How to Convince an Audience: Opinion versus Persuasion

    Writing exercise: Do this one step at a time. 1. Write your opinion of an animal you love or hate. It can be a particular animal ("I love my pet alligator") or all animals of a kind ("I hate all snakes"). Then make a list of about 3-5 reasons why you love or hate this animal. When you have finished your list, put it aside.

  22. Opinion

    Judge David Tatel of the D.C. Circuit emphasized this fundamental principle in 2019 when his court issued a writ of mandamus to force recusal of a military judge who blithely ignored at least the ...