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Got opinions? A Viewpoint how-to guide

<ampus is overflowing with opinions, and—in my humble opinion—that is one of its best qualities. No matter where I am or who I’m with, I can have a conversation about what I think about pretty much anything. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had discussions/friendly arguments with people on topics like clothing norms at Carleton, the Carleton administration’s response to various events and incidents, the characteristics of literary interpretation, and many more random things. I know so many people who enjoy sharing their opinions, listening to those of others, and talking about their differences.

But not very many of these people seem to want to write op-eds for the Viewpoint. So, as one-half of the current Viewpoint editing team, I want to share my own ideas of what makes a good editorial—and why it’s actually easier than just arguing with your friends. I hope I’ll convince you to give writing op-eds a try.

The most important thing in a Viewpoint article is to have a point, and back it up. It can be a point about anything, serious or lighthearted. Do you have an opinion about the latest political scandal in Washington or a pressing social issue of our time? You can write about it. Do you have an opinion about a pop culture trend? You can write about it. Do you have an opinion about the layout of tables on Fourth Libe? You can write about it. Just write enough to convince me why I should care, and why I should agree.

There are no hard and fast rules about what makes an editorial good or bad, but there are some things that I’ve found to be useful tools for a variety of points I’ve tried to make throughout my life. Drawing from personal experience, for example, is usually helpful. It can explain why you care about a particular issue (see my opening paragraph of this article). It can serve as evidence, too—and it can be pretty difficult evidence for an opposing side to undermine. Plus, I think it’s fun to write about my own experience and to read about others’ experiences. It can teach you about the world.

Of course, if you want, you can look for other kinds of evidence. You can use statistics; you can pull from current events. Or you can pull from your emotions, your conversations with your friends, your personal history…the possibilities are endless.

Now, here’s why it’s actually super easy.

First of all, writing for the Viewpoint, unlike other newspaper sections, doesn’t require talking to anybody else. That’s right, you can do it from the comfort of your bed, in your pajamas, at whatever time of the day you want. You can interview people if you want to; you can become an editorial-writing hermit if you want to. The world is your oyster. Or your hermit crab.

Second of all, Viewpoint articles don’t have to be that long. It’s not a thesis-driven essay for a political science class. As long as you use your words well enough to convince me of your point, you’ve accomplished the goal of an editorial. And a small logistical point that bears repeating: you can write an editorial once and then never again. Or you can write every week. It’s entirely up to you.

Thirdly, in a real conversation, people can interrupt you and get you all mixed up about what you’re actually saying. I spend a lot of my normal Carleton week thinking about opinions, and this still happens to me all the time. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a piece of paper or a computer screen than it is to talk to someone who will answer back before you’ve had time to reflect. And sometimes, having written your opinion out in a structured way makes it easier to talk about later. It gives you evidence that you can later seemingly pull off of the top of your head in support of your point.

I hope I’ve convinced you that writing editorials can be both interesting and fun. And I hope you—yes, you—give it a try. If you’re interested, email me (grabowskie@) or Avery Naughton (naughtona@). We hope to hear from you soon!

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