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Writing Op-Eds


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These slides come from the Future Earth #popupwebinar that took place on November 4th 2015. Learn how to write opinion pieces for science media and more – and how to get them published.

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Writing Op-Eds

  1. 1. The Future Earth Pop Up Webinar series: OpEds Owen Gaffney and Ninad Bondre November 2015 @owengaffney @Ninad_Bondre
  2. 2. What is an oped? Why write one? Where can you publish it? How do you write one? How do you pitch it?
  3. 3. Commentaries, opinions, editorials • All media including science media have “op-eds” • Often most read section • Usually about 800 words • Usually relate to a big event in the world – environmental catastrophe, financial crisis, climate summit, World Water Week • Usually finish with some sort of demand or “ask”
  4. 4. Why write an op-ed?
  5. 5. Influence opinion (thought leadership)
  6. 6. Media Top tier: • New York Times • Washington Post • Guardian • Financial Times • Project Syndicate • Science, Nature, New Scientist, SciAm
  7. 7. Media Second tier: • Huffington Post • Telegraph • Independent • World Economic Forum
  8. 8. Third tier (mainly national reach) • Times of India • DN, SVD • Suddeutsche Zeitung • FT China • Le Monde • Sydney Morning Herald
  9. 9. Writing an op-ed
  10. 10. Clarity of writing follows clarity of thought The Economist Style Guide (Have a single, focused idea)
  11. 11. Structure • Hook plus main argument (1-2 para) • 1st supporting statement with facts • 2nd supporting statement • 3rd supporting statement • Anticipate criticism • Solutions • Conclusion wrapping up connecting to the beginning
  12. 12. Six essential components of a persuasive speech (Cicero) 1. Angle/frame to grab attention/state the issue and that you have a solution 2. Vivid narration of the facts 3. The current areas of dispute 4. Evidence supporting your argument 5. Refutation 6. Conclusion and call to action
  13. 13. The art of persuasion (Rhetoric) Research Facts Statistics Benefits Arguments Narrative Emotion, passion (positive and negative) Connect with the audience Personal anecdotes Empathy Credibility/authority Respect LOGOS PATHOS ETHOS
  14. 14. Structure Or, just go with a list.
  15. 15. The opening paragraph • Short, simple sentences – 25 words max • Grab attention • Topical • Strong opinion
  16. 16. As efforts ramp up to design metrics and indicators for water-related SDGs, it is prudent to be aware of and consider the invisible processes of water flows globally. It is important to distinguish between blue and green water flows.
  17. 17. California is no stranger to droughts; but the Sierra Nevada snow that provides essential water to the state is at a 500- year low, according to research out this week. The population of almost 39 million people is beginning to feel the pinch.
  18. 18. In sub-Saharan Africa half a billion people face severe water shortages. While wealthy countries can manage water challenges easier than the poorest, in the 21st century we need a transformation in water-management policies if we are to feed a population of nine billion people by 2050. Not least because humans are changing the global water cycle.
  19. 19. Every sentence should make the reader read the next sentence. Each word should make the reader read the next word.
  20. 20. Paul Krugman ‘This just in: saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the good news?’ NYT, 18 Sep 2014
  21. 21. George Orwell’s guide to writing (the opposite to academic writing) 1. No over-used metaphors, similes or figure of speech 2. Short words rather than long 3. Always cut words 4. Never use passive where you can use the active 5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or jargon 6. Break these rules rather than say anything outright barbarous See also, Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”
  22. 22. Non-linearities Earth system Regime shift Resilience Social-ecological system The Anthropocene Bubble
  23. 23. No over-used metaphors, similes or figure of speech • Canary in a coalmine • Missing a piece of the puzzle • Draw a line in the sand • ‘Level playing field’ See also, Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”
  24. 24. Iron Curtain Cold War
  25. 25. Metaphor Definition: A word or phrase applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.
  26. 26. Metaphor Virtually all of our abstract conceptualization and reasoning is structured by metaphor. Cognitive Science
  27. 27. People remember metaphors “The German people blindly accepted Hitler’s dangerous ideas.” “The sheep followed the leader over the cliff.”
  28. 28. More metaphors • A safe operating space • Planetary boundaries • Nature is sending invoices back • Planetary machinery • Tipping points • Ecological footprint
  29. 29. A forest of metaphors • This oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. (Barack Obama) • We have our foot on the accelerator and we are heading for an abyss. (Ban Ki Moon) • The earth is being scorched by the flames of himsa. (Mahatma Ghandi) • Waiting in the wings. • At a crossroads.
  30. 30. The rule of 3s • Friends, Romans, countrymen • We came, we saw, we conquered • Blood, sweat and tears • Faith, hope and charity • Stop, look and listen • Sex, lies and videotape
  31. 31. Repetition For us, they packed up their worldly possessions. For us, they toiled in sweatshops. For us, they fought and died. This is the price of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence. This is the meaning of liberty. Barack Obama 2009
  32. 32. Repetition We will fight them on the beaches. We will fight them on the landing grounds. We shall fight them in the streets. We shall fight them in the hills. We will never surrender. Winston Churchill
  33. 33. The Future Earth Pop Up Webinar series: OpEds Owen Gaffney and Ninad Bondre November 2015 @owengaffney @Ninad_Bondre