I regularly write opinion pieces for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Diverse Issues, The Over the past few years, I have written several hundred op-eds.Since I’ve started doing that, I’ve improved the quality of my writing, become a quicker writer, and have been forced to become more well-read in order to speak to larger and more diverse audiences.I suggest not reading these comments nor responding to the emails.
When I tell most faculty members and educators that they should write op-ed or opinion pieces, the first response is “I can’t dumb down my work.” My response?
If your work is not written in an inclusive, accessible way, how can it influence anyone?
When you take a stand, people will critique you and may lash out at you. You have to be thick-skinned, and you can’t fixate on whether you’re popular with all readers.
If your opinion piece is published in an online venue, which most are, you’ll inevitably get hateful comments and the occasional mean-spirited email.
Here’s another tip, and this may be the hardest: You have to write for a general audience.
This means that you must drop all of that horrific academic jargon that you hold on to so tightly.I know you might be wondering how you can fit your brilliant thoughts into 800 words or less, but, believe me, you can, and your writing will be much tighter and more brilliant as a result. If you see a hot topic being discussed in the media, notice a controversy brewing, are fired up about something, or have been asked by a media outlet to write an essay, you have to turn it around quickly. Most academics work slowly, and this is a hindrance if you want to write opinion pieces.You have to learn to be nimble and avoid perfection; it’s the difference between pressing your pencil hard on a piece of paper and gliding your pencil across the page to make a beautiful line.Once your idea is on paper, there are other issues that you need to think about.You must be brief: Most media outlets don’t want opinion pieces longer than 800 words, especially The New York Times.Pick up a copy of either On Writing Well by William Zinsser or Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword. programs would teach students how to write in a vibrant way along with how to conduct research, as the best research can’t do much unless it’s communicated effectively.Good writing is clear writing that is inclusive, not exclusionary. When writing opinion pieces, you don’t want to be detached and emotionless as so many academics are taught to be in their doctoral programs.Another common excuse is that educators have nothing important to say.If you have nothing important to say, then what are you doing every day as you teach and research? The last and perhaps the most troubling excuse is “I’m afraid to take a stand.” My internal response is “Are you kidding me?I regularly take stands on issues of equal opportunity, racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism.I push and prod people to think differently and to consider their role in making meaningful change.