Journalism Center

How to Write an Opinion Piece for a School Newspaper


Editorial or Column

The difference between an editorial and a column is simple. An editorial is the collective view of the newspaper and is generally unsigned. A column is the opinion of a particular person and usually reflects only his or her particular view.

If you write an editorial, it should reflect the consensus of the editorial staff of your newspaper. You should never use the pronoun “I” while writing. If you write a column, then it should reflect your personal opinion and should be known that it is written by you. In a column, you can absolutely use “I” seeing as it is a personal viewpoint.


Choosing the Subject

Generally speaking this is probably the most important part…what to write about. Choose topics that are relevant to your school and the students. This shouldn’t be hard to find, but keep things relevant.

There are four basic types of editorials:

  • Clarification – This is where you give your opinion on what a school rule means or perhaps you interpret a particular action of the school board.
  • Critique – This is where you become critical of something, perhaps a school policy, a teaching method, or the food served in the cafeteria.
  • Convincing – This is where you try to convince and sway someone to your particular viewpoint. Generally speaking, the predominate viewpoint contradicts yours, so you are trying to explain why yours is better.
  • Commendation – Here you write to put your stamp of approval on someone, something, or an idea. You explain why you agree with the person or action, defend the individual or action, and perhaps even endorse the individual or action.

Laying Out Your Argument

Your argument needs to be persuasive and entertaining. If your writing is not entertaining, who will want to read it? So being with arguments or a stance that might be somewhat controversial or outrageous, and then, as you get deeper into the argument, you clarify your position and why it is not so outrageous.

Make sure you have a catchy title that causes someone to pause, question, or become curious. But once you’ve drawn the reader in, there are several things you need to focus on:

  • Explain your position in one sentence. This should be right at the beginning of your piece…or very near the beginning. It can be, as mentioned, outrageous, controversial, or even humorous. It should grab the reader’s attention. For example:
    • Teachers should break the rules more.
    • Our football team is the best team in the nation.
    • The new school policy violates student’s free speech rights.
    • The dress code isn’t strict enough!
  • Facts. Your argument means nothing without facts. You can’t just make things up. It needs to be clear and your arguments should interpret the facts in a way that makes sense. But without facts, you are going nowhere.
  • Tell the other side’s view. This gives you credibility. It says that you know what you are talking about, have listened, but have found fault with their perspective. However, conceding to at least one point of the opposition’s view shows that you can be objective, fair, and balanced.
  • Give realistic solutions. This is important. Your credibility and influence may hinge on this. It is not enough to say someone or something is wrong. You need to offer a better alternative. If you just say why someone is wrong, but you never give a realistic solution to the problem, then your arguments will seem petty. What is your solution and why is it better than the opposition’s? Is it realistic? I mean stating that the solution is replacing the School Board with Junior High Schoolers is probably not realistic, and unless you intend it to be a satire, will probably turn readers off.
  • Don’t get too wordy. You want to aim for 500 words or less. Make every word matter and you will be more convincing.

Some writers recommend saving your best arguments for last because what a person reads last will stick in their minds longer. But if you do that, then your other arguments need to be engaging or you may lose readers.

Conclude with a reiteration of your argument and why you hold to the particular solution you presented.

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