I don't know if it's the bad economy or the mid-term elections or both, but we've seen a big uptick in queries for our A Matter of Opinion workshop*. In this session, we offer strategies and insights for writing strong opinion and persuasive pieces for use in print publications, as blog posts, and in pod- or broadcast audio and video. Our traditional clients for this workshop -- nonprofit and advocacy groups -- are now being joined by an increasing number of for-profit businesses.

Since there's so much interest in this genre, I thought I'd give you our Gold Standards for Opinion/Persuasive Writing. These are the criteria we use internally when writing this kind of content:

  • Has a unique point of view or adds unique depth to an existing point of view.
  • Lets readers know why they should care and/or what they should do.
  • Acknowledges other perspectives where appropriate and where space or time allows.
  • Includes appropriate details (examples, explanations and evidence).
  • References a timely news hook, event or circumstance.
  • Presents a confident, respectful and authoritative persona.
  • Uses tone and vocabulary that is appropriate for social, cultural, and communal aspects of the audience.
  • Uses vocabulary you can be sure your audience will understand; excludes jargon, unless the audience and outlet is industry-specific.
  • Favors simple sentences over complex sentences and shorter sentences over longer ones.
  • Avoids snark.

We've based these criteria on reader feedback. We gave people a set of opinion and persuasive pieces and asked them to evaluate each. Every time we do the workshop, we do the same process (with different pieces) and the list doesn't change very much. We like the Gold Standards concept because it gives us a bar to shoot for in terms of quality: Whatever we produce should meet these standards along with the intended outlet's submission requirements.

Have we forgotten anything? What else makes a good opinion or persuasive piece? What criteria do you use?

* If you'd like to learn more about or book this workshop, drop me a line!