September 19, 2014


Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing an Editorial

By: Matthew Hurtt

Matt Hurtt

This past Tuesday America’s Future Foundation kicked off our inaugural Writing Fellowship this week. Liberty activist Matthew Hurtt has some excellent advice for them and for those interested in writing op-eds.

We are at a point in technological development where every person can be an influencer. Through blogging and social media, those of us who are most active and engaged are working to sway our friends and those across the Internet to our cause.

Perhaps well-known political pundits like Thomas Sowell, Gene Healy, or George Will influence us.

If you are inspired to argue for or against a particular policy or position like those aforementioned well-known columnists, what questions should you ask yourself when planning to write an editorial (or, in this age, publish a blog post)?

First and most importantly, what issues are important to you? Try to find issues around which you can build broad coalitions. Popular issues these days are instances where regulations intersect with our economy; think about attempts to regulate food trucks or Uber and Lyft in big cities.

On those particular issues, most consumers are supportive of expanding choice and opportunity. It’s fairly easy to make the case for those issues and draw a contrast against big government regulators who (oftentimes) want to stamp out competition at the encouragement of entrenched business interests.

Once you’ve selected a topic, consider how long it would take to research, write, and edit your work. Editorials are generally 500 to 1000 words. Does writing come naturally to you? Is it a process? Understand how you write and give yourself enough time to produce a good quality editorial.

Your next consideration is understanding your intended audience. The people who read are completely different than those who pick up the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Those who read Townhall or Breitbart aren’t the same as those who read Salon or Slate.

Understanding your audience will allow you to better relate to them when arguing for your position.

Going a step further with understanding your audience, you should try to find a “local” angle. If you’re writing for your local daily newspaper, find a way to relate the issue to your community. If you’re writing for RedState, try to find an angle that allows you to better relate to t hose readers.

People already read Thomas Sowell, Gene Healy, and George Will. You aren’t them. Finding your local angle will allow you to develop your own voice, rather than parrot the thoughts of more widely-published columnists.

Lastly, consider why anyone would want to read your opinion anyway. Do you bring some level of expertise to the discussion? Do you already have a large social network of people who would read your editorials? Have you run for office in the past or otherwise presented yourself as a credible source on the issues?

Once you’ve asked yourself these five questions, you’re ready to put pen to paper and write out your editorial. I encourage you to reach out to outlets like America’s Future Foundation, RedState, the Daily Caller, United Liberty, Townhall and others to see if they will publish your editorials. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to get a “yes” from an editor who decides what to publish on these and other outlets.

This post is an adaptation of part of a presentation on writing editorials given at Leadership Institute written communications workshops.

Matthew Hurtt is a writer and activist living in Arlington, Virginia.