How to write an editorial – Writing an editorial is one of those things that sounds like it should be pretty straightforward. Easy, even.
But then you sit down to start typing. Your fingers freeze over the keyboard. You gaze into the perfectly blank white space of your computer screen.
Wait, you think. How do I write an editorial?
You’re in luck. This post is your expert cheat sheet for how to write an editorial.
What is an editorial?
Before we jump into the mechanics of how to write an editorial, it’s helpful to get a good grasp on the definition of editorials.
Here is a simple definition to get us started:
An editorial is a brief essay-style piece of writing from a newspaper, magazine, or other publication. An editorial is generally written by the editorial staff, editors, or writers of a publication.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than simply dashing out an essay.
There is the purpose, different types of editorials, elements of a good editorial, structure, steps to writing an editorial, and the actual mechanics of writing your editorial.
Let’s dig into how to write an editorial!
If you want a short, visual explanation of how to write an editorial, check out this video from a bona fide New York Times Editor:
What is the purpose of an editorial?
The purpose of an editorial is to share a perspective, persuade others to your point of view, and to possibly propose a solution to a problem.
The most important concern is for you to pick one purpose and stick to it.
Rambling, incoherent editorials won’t do. They won’t get you the results or the response you might want.
When it comes to purpose, you want:
- Singular focus
- Personal connection
The first two probably make sense with no explanation. That last one (personal connection) deserves more attention.
The best editorials arise from personal passions, values, and concerns. You will naturally write with vigor and voice. Your emotion will find its way into your words.
Every bit of this will make your editorials instantly more compelling.
What are the different types of editorials?
There are two main types of editorials and a number of different sub-types. One of the first steps in how to write an editorial is choosing the right type for your intended purpose or desired outcome.
The two main types of editorials:
In an opinion editorial, the author shares a personal opinion about a local or national issue. The issue can be anything from local regulations to national human trafficking.
Typically, the topic of an editorial is related to the topics covered in the publication. Some publications, like newspapers, cover many topics.
In a solution editorial, the author offers a solution to a local or national problem. It’s often recommended for the author of solution editorials to cite credible sources as evidence for the validity of the proposed solution (Research is also important for opinion editorials).
There are also several editorial subtypes based on purpose:
- Explain (you can explain a person, place, or thing)
- Criticism (you can critically examine a person, place, or thing)
- Praise (celebrate a person, place, or thing)
- Defend (you can defend a person, place, or thing)
- Endorsement (support a person, place, or thing)
- Catalyst (for conversation or change)
What makes a good editorial?
Even if you learn how to write an editorial, it doesn’t mean the editorial will automatically be good. You may be asking, What makes a good editorial?
A good editorial is clear, concise, and compelling.
Therefore, the best editorials are thought out with a clear purpose and point of view. What you want to avoid is a rambling, journal type essay. This will be both confusing and boring to the reader. That’s the last thing you want.
Here are some other elements of a good editorial:
- Clear and vivid voice
- Interesting point of view
- Gives opposing points of view
- Backed up by credible sources
- Analyzes a situation
“A good editorial is contemporary without being populist.” —Ajai Singh and Shakuntala Singh
How to write an editorial (step-by-step)
You can write an editorial by following seven simple steps.
- Choose a topic
- Choose a purpose
- Select an editorial type
- Gather research
- Write the editorial
- Write the headline
- Edit your editorial
Choose a topic
How do you choose a topic for your editorial? You have several options. Your best bet is to go with a topic about which you feel strongly.
Consider these questions:
- What makes you angry?
- What makes your blood boil?
- What gets you excited?
- What is wrong with your community or the world?
When you write from a place of passion, you imbue your words with power. That’s how to write an editorial that resonates with readers.
Choose a purpose
The next step for how to write an editorial is to choose your purpose. What do you want to accomplish with your editorial? What ultimate outcome do you desire?
Answering these questions will both focus your editorial and help you select the most effective editorial type.
Remember: a best practice is honing in on one specific purpose.
Select a type
Now it’s time to select the best editorial type for your writing. Your type should align with your purpose.
In fact, your purpose probably tells you exactly what kind of editorial to write.
First, determine which major type of editorial best fits your purpose. You can do this by asking yourself, “Am I giving an opinion or offering a solution?”
Second, select your subtype. Again, look to your purpose. Do you want to explain? Persuade? Endorse? Defend?
Select one subtype and stick to it.
Don’t neglect this important step. Research adds value, trust, credibility, and strength to your argument.
Think of research as evidence. What kind of evidence do you need?
- Research findings
All of these forms of evidence strengthen your argument. Shoot for a mix of evidence that combines several different variations. For example, include an example, some statistics and research findings.
What you want to avoid:
- Quote, quote, quote.
- Story, story, story
Pro tip: you can find research articles related to your topic by going to Google Scholar.
For other evidence, try these sources:
You might also want to check with your local librarian and community Chamber of Commerce for local information.
Write your editorial
Finally, you can start writing your editorial. Aim to keep your editorial shorter than longer. However, there is no set length for an editorial.
For more readable copy, keep your words and sentences short. Use simple, clear language. Avoid slang, acronyms, or industry-specific language. If you need to use specialized language, explain the words and terms to the reader.
The most common point of view in editorials is first person plural. In this point of view, you use the pronouns “we” and “us”.
Write the headline
Your headline must be catchy, not clickbait. There’s a fine line between the two, and it’s not always a clear line.
Characteristics of a catchy headline:
- Triggers curiosity
- Includes an emotion
- Doesn’t overpromise or mislead
Your headline will either grab a reader’s attention or it will not. I suggest you spend some time thinking about your title. It’s that important. You can also learn how to write headlines from experts.
Use these real editorial headlines as a source of inspiriation to come up with your own:
- We Came All This Way to Let Vaccines Go Bad in the Freezer?
- What’s the matter with Kansas?
- War to end all wars
- Still No Exit
- Zimbabwe’s Stolen Election
- Running out of time
- Charter Schools = Choices
Suggested read: How To Write an Autobiography
Edit your editorial
The final step is to edit and proofread your editorial. You will want to check your editorial for typos, spelling, grammatical, and punctuation mistakes.
I suggest that you also review your piece for structure, tone, voice, and logical flaws. Your editorial will be out in the public domain where any troll with a keyboard or smart phone (which, let’s be honest, is everyone) can respond to you.
If you’ve done your job, your editorial will strike a nerve.
You might as well assume that hordes of people might descend on your opinion piece to dissect every detail. So check your sources. Check the accuracy of dates, numbers, and figures in your piece.
Double check the spelling of names and places. Make sure your links work.
Triple check everything.
Editorial structures and outlines
As you learn how to write an editorial, you have many choices. One choice is your selection of structure.
There are several editorial structures, outlines, or templates. Choose the one the best fits your topic, purpose, and editorial type.
Every editorial will have a beginning, middle, and end.
Here are few specific structures you can use:
- Problem, Solution, Call to Action
- Story, Message, Call to Action
- Thesis, Evidence, Recommendation
- Your View, Opposing Views, Conclusion
How do you start an editorial?
A common way to start an editorial is to state your point or perspective. Here are a few other ways to start your editorial:
• The problem
• a startling statement
• a story
• An example
• an anecdote
• Your solution
Other than the headline, the beginning of your editorial is what will grab your reader. If you want to write an editorial that gets read, then you must write a powerful opening.
How do you end an editorial?
You have several choices for how to end your editorial. You can end with a call-to-action, a thoughtful reflection, or a restatement of your message.
Keep in mind that the end of your editorial is what readers will most likely remember.
You want your ending to resonate, to charge your reader with emotion, evidence, and excitement to take action. After all, you wrote the editorial to change something (minds, policies, approaches, etc.).
In a few sections (see below), you will learn a few simple templates that you can “steal” to help you end your editorial. Of course, you don’t have to use the templates.
They are just suggestions. Often, the best way to conclude is to restate your main point.
How do you know if you’ve written a good editorial?
Many people want to know how to tell if they have written a good editorial. How do you know?
You can tell by the response you get from the readers. A good editorial sparks a community conversation. A good editorial might also result in some type of action based on the solution you propose.
An article by Ajai Singh and Shakuntala Singh in Mens Sana Monograph says this about good editorials:
It tackles recent events and issues, and attempts to formulate viewpoints based on an objective analysis of happenings and conflicting/contrary opinions.
Hence a hard-hitting editorial is as legitimate as a balanced equipoise that reconciles apparently conflicting positions and controversial posturings, whether amongst politicians (in news papers), or amongst researchers (in academic journals).
Note that newsworthy events, controversy, and balance matter in editorials. It’s also a best practice to include contradicting opinions in your piece.
Editorial examples & templates
As you write your own editorial, study the following example templates “stolen” from real editorials.
You can use these templates as “sentence starters” to inspire you to write your own completely original sentences.
Phrases for the beginning:
- It’s been two weeks since…
- Look no further than…
- The country can’t…
Phrases for the middle:
- That’s an astonishing failure
- It should never have come to this
- Other [counties, states, countries, etc.] are…
- Within a few days…
- Not everyone shares my [opinion, pessimissim, optimism]
- Officials say…
Phrases for the end:
- Let’s commit to…
- If we can…we will…
Honestly, the best way to learn how to write an editorial is to read and study as many published editorials as possible. The more you study, the better you will understand what works.
Study more editorials at these links:
Final thoughts on how to write an editorial
Whew, we have covered a lot of ground in this article. I hope that you have gained everything you need to know for how to write an editorial.
There are a lot of details that go into writing a good editorial.
If you get confused or overwhelmed, know that you are not alone. Know that many other writers have been there before, and have struggled with the same challenges.
Mostly, know that you got this.
Next suggested read: The Best Writing Books for Beginners