Innovative Learning Week: Tuesday – Op-ed writing

How to Write an Op-ed, with Edd

There was hot chocolate. This innovative learning session was both disappointing and brilliant: it was disappointing that I was the only student to attend, but brilliant in that I learned loads and had a really enjoyable time. I attended the session as op-ed writing I figure is pretty relevant to my blogging, so y’all should be grateful for this giving you a hopefully better read form now on (after this, I promise). The session was not only a lesson on how to write and present, but an example. Edd really practiced what he was preaching, and the result was a powerful demonstration in audience engagement. I only wish there had been more of an audience to experience it too. 

Some of the best tips:

Some of these are great quotes from the talk, which I will elaborate on my interpretation of. I hope this helps you all, and proves I learnt something. 
  • “There’s something magical and powerful about a full stop; It lets your mind breathe.”
    • This was a very effective way of saying that short declarative sentences are the best way to write, in general. I think this description is really apt. 
  • “‘Very’ is the vanilla of vanilla”
    • “So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.” – Keating, Dead Poets Society
  • Articles and their language should deliberately include, not exclude, so avoid jargon and technical language where possible.
    • Know when to explain terms and when not to, for eloquence and balance
  • “Have the guts to cut.” and “be suspicious of your darlings”.
    • We all start a piece occasionally with a specific reference, quote or turn of phrase we want to use. Those are your “darlings”. We often work them in at the expense of the piece. Either cut them, or scrutinise that section so much more than the rest of the piece i.e. be suspicious. 
  • Proofing and criticism: let others read your writing, and read it as an enemy.
    • Let others read it. My secret is that I let my lovely flatmate read my writing. English is her second language, and though she is brilliant at it, if she has to think about what I am trying to say I usually take that as an indication it could be more accessible. The natural rhythm can always be improved by someone else.
    • Reading as an enemy helps avoid conjecture, and makes opinion pieces more robust.
  • “Read Everything from Calvin and Hobbes to Noam Chomsky”

  • Be funny.
    • This one is particularly hard for me. I find humour on serious subjects hard [see my bad attempt at ironic facism]. However, humour can be really effective, not to mention funny, so I’m going to try hard. 
  • “Love letters are some of the best opinion pieces in history”
    • This is because the writers of love letter are passionate and care about the subject. Writing shouldn’t be a dry intellectual exercise, Imagine a love letter written as an exercise, or with false affection. Eugh. 
  • Position yourself as an expert
    • Why should anyone care what you say? [I’m still baffled by this.]
  • Make it personal – why should readers care?
    • Today you care because all this means you get better posts out of me. Generally you should care because a lot of my posts are about general global political trends, and trends are scary. I will be more scaremongering in future. 
  • “Deploy facts like depth charges.”
    • This means using them effectively, even devastatingly towards your point. Using them at key moments in the argument can snap a reader out of reading and into absorbing. 
I hope these tips gave you hope for the future of my writing skills, and you haven’t given up on me yet. I have been aiming to write a post everyday, as writing of course is a use-it-or-lose-it skill. Please grumble if I’m not satiating your appetite. I also hope this post has inspired you to write some more or improve your writing. In the mean time, I promise next week we will be back to IR and law, and I have an exciting announcement which will go up later today. 
DFTBA (my new cool acronym – thanks YouTube!)
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