What is an editorial and how do I write one?

When I was just a baby writer, the word ‘editorial’ was wrapped in an air of mystique.

In my mind, it was something for a glamorous group of people whose words were in glossy magazines or hard-hitting newspapers. I could only hope to one day be in that club, I thought. So let’s talk about editorials!

What is an editorial?

An editorial is an opinion piece, typically written in the first person, and published by a news organization. They’re not limited to the written word; you might see an editorial on TV, or hear it on the radio. 

What’s an op-ed?

You’ve probably heard this before. It’s just short for ‘opposite-editorial’ pages, for which the likes of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are famous. These are typically opinion pieces, and do sometimes get called ‘opinion-editorials’ instead. 

But the most popular kind of editorial format is text-based, whether that’s online or in print. It’s not quite the same as a news report, but could include some original reporting to support the opinion being put forward. 

The four types of editorial

There are four main formats you can choose from when it comes to editorials. The type you go for should suit the purpose of your piece:

  1. Persuasive: Most editorials are pieces of persuasive writing that start with a clear idea/argument which the writers works to prove throughout the rest of the article.
  2. Praise: These ones are used almost exclusively to hype up a person, organization, or artwork.
  3. Critical: Writers use this format to criticise or hold accountable anything from a political leader to organisations, institutions, works of art, policies, laws, and so on. 
  4. News interpretation: This format frames recent news in a particular light, or puts a recent newsworthy even in a wider context. Often, these pieces will cross-reference other stories in the same issue.

Bigger publications typically hire op-ed columnists to submit a number of editorials every calendar year. Some, especially smaller publishers, tend to have their own in-house columnists who work on editorial copy day-to-day.

Guest editorials are also a thing. This is when a prominent person is invited to write for the publication, almost like a ‘letters to the editor’ situation, but with a bigger word-count to play with.

It’s normally up to the editor or editorial board to hire writers and choose guest editorials. They ultimately decide which editorials actually make it into the publication, and might reject a piece if they feel that it’s not quite right for their brand, or might damage the publication whether that’s legally or in terms of its reputation. 

Most of the time, editors will generally send a piece back to a writer with feedback for minor tweaks, bits to rework, or sections that need to be streamlined. The writer would then be expected to re-submit the piece in its final form for sign off. 

6 tips for writing an editorial

Ready to sink your teeth into your first editorial piece? Let’s take a closer look at the writing process before you get cracking. 

  1. Research your topic: Before you dive in and really start writing, you need to have a clear point to your op-ed. Make sure you have a solid understand of your topic. Research it thoroughly, checking out newspapers, academic journals, and relevant texts to get a full picture of your subject and the context around it.
  2. Choose your thesis statement: This is the core belief you’re building your editorial on. A thesis statement needs to be clear and concise—think of it as the blurb for a film designed to Your thesis statement will form the foundation of your editorial.
  3. Back it up with strong points: Be ready to include points and references to back up your argument or thesis statement. Around a paragraph pr two is enough for each of these points, and you’ll want to include two to four of these depending on what the maximum word count is.
  4. Cover any possible counter-arguments: For every argument, there are at least five counter-arguments coming back at you. As you write, anticipate some of the possible counter-arguments people might come up with, and address those different perspectives with your own point of view. Done well, this will only strengthen your argument.
  5. Summarise your main point or close with a clear call to action: If your piece is meant to address a particular problem, give your reader some information around potential answers to that problem. Share resources people can go to for further reading on the topic, and remember to return back to your stance as you conclude, tying up any loose ends.
  6. Edit, edit, edit: You might not be an editor, but having sharp self-editing skills as a writer will take you far. Self-editing is all about revising your own work with clarity and quality in mind. Pretend you’re reading someone else’s work; cut any unnecessary words, cull the clichés, and get rid of anything that distracts the reader from the real meat of what you’re saying. Once that’s done, do a final proofread for any typos or grammatical errors.

And that’s editorials for you! I hope you found this article helpful, and if you have any questions or tips of your own, pop them in the comments. 


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