How To Write a Great Opinion Essay
An Introduction to an Opinion Essay
Some say that opinions are like armpits; Everyone has one, and, according to a few cynical types, no one wants to know about them. Nonsense. Everyone may have opinions, as well as armpits, but, unlike armpits, opinions are more interesting, have more potential use and, all around, can often make for good topics of conversation. However, there is a catch. In order to keep your opinions from going the way of slightly odorous, possibly offensive body parts, you must have a certain skill in expressing yourself. If you mean to express yourself in written words, there is no better way to do this than to write an opinion essay.
Like any other essay, this takes some doing. But it is not as hard or even as daunting a task as you might think. All you need to do is organize your thoughts, gather supporting evidence, write out a first draft, edit your work and write a final copy. Of these steps, the hardest is usually gathering supporting evidence, but, if done properly, that evidence will greatly enhance the credibility of the essay and the opinion therein. Nevertheless, all of these steps are essential, and even the basic ones, like organizing your thoughts, will be reviewed in this hub.
I hope that this hub is useful, as well as entertaining, and that no one feels hurt or offended by my own sense of humor, which really can be quite strange.
Other Tips and Techniques...
One of the best things you can do when organizing your thoughts is to make a chart like the ones shown in the images. They are great at placing down stray thoughts that might be useful later on. Here are some examples;
-The bubble chart.
-The flow chart.
Organizing Your Thoughts: Putting your Feelings to Words
When you begin any essay, it is best to start out with some idea of what it is that you are writing about. This might seem obvious, but it never ceases to surprise me just how many times I sit down to write, before realizing that I don't even know what it is I wanted to say. I suspect that this happens quite often, to quite a lot of people. In order to write an opinion essay, one must first have an opinion worth writing about, and a good way to find such an opinion is to make a list of the thing which you are most passionate about.
Before you start out on that list, however, take a few moments to reflect on something that Socrates said once: "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." Actually, Socrates said a lot of things like that. His point here, and the overall point of his philosophy, is that, in the end, no one really knows anything about anything, except for the person who realizes this fact. That person, being aware of their own ignorance, is open to whatever type of knowledge and insights they glean out of life. Translated to English, what Socrates is saying is that everything you think you "know" is crap. Once you realize that what you have been taught on your mother's knee was a bunch of baloney, you can move on to "true wisdom." (Socrates, again.)
With this in mind, think now about what it is you want to say. It can really be about anything at all. Sports, politics, movies, books, your marriage, your kids, your pets, your car or your iPhone; it really doesn't matter what you choose to write about. What matters are your feelings about these things. If you don't feel any particular interest in movie reviews, you shouldn't write about them. You don't want to convey boredom when you write, or your audience will end up being bored, and will end up thinking that you yourself are boring.
Once you have determined that you do, in fact, have an opinion on something that is worth writing about, you must now go about the difficult process of research.
Research: Don't Forget to do your Homework!
As the only step in an opinion essay that actually requires a certain amount of persistence, I think of research as the hardest step (although for you, the research may be more fun and entertaining than it is hard work). At any rate, when writing an opinion essay, researching your topic is always essential. There are two reasons for this; One is that by gathering research, data, and evidence that backs up your opinion, you make yourself more informed about your argument, and your argument therefor becomes more convincing.
The second reason is that, when you do research, you come into contact with the opposing point of view. You have your side of the story, but what about the other side? In your essay, you must be able to address the claims that are contrary to your own opinion, and you must be able to refute them. There is no real way to do this, of course, because, as we learned from Socrates, all "Knowledge" is really just self delusion. But, in arguing your opinion, you are engaging in a healthy intellectual exchange, one which challenges you to consider another viewpoint.
Along the way, the research you do will also help expand your intellectual horizons. Once you set out to gather evidence for your opinion, you will learn more about it. You may even be tempted to change your mind about some things, just based on your gathering of evidence.
Your First Draft
Since writing a first draft is a well acknowledged step in the process of writing an essay, I will be very brief with the explanation here. Now that you have an opinion which is reinforced by well grounded facts, you must get around to actually writing the essay. But you don't have to worry about finesse just yet. Your only purpose with any first draft is to write down what you have to say, unedited and simple. Your first draft should just be the bare bones of an essay, the foundation upon which the rest of your work will stand.
A good way to write your first draft is to simply find a place where you are comfortable being and where you can think clearly or concentrate. If you like being at a Starbucks or other public area like that, you can easily write your first draft there. Or, if you cannot hear yourself think even in the quietest of public places (of which there are very few), just write it at home. As long as you are comfortable enough to write down words and sentences and coherent thoughts, that is a good place for you to write.
Edit Yourself: And get others to Edit Too!
Once you have completed your first draft, take a break for a while. Take as long a time away from your opinion essay as you want, whether that is a day or a week or a month... but don't leave it too long, or you will never start again. After your recuperation, you can go back to the first draft of your essay and reread it with a clear and open mind. This is important, because you really do need to see the flaws in your early writing in order to edit it well. There are three steps to editing; self editing, peer-review editing and final editing. In order to write a great opinion essay, you must follow these three steps.
The first step to editing is the self editing stage, and all you need to do here is get rid of some of the obvious mistakes and errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation. See, you had the opportunity to just write down anything on your chosen subject to your hearts content in your first draft, which, in writing, is often a mistake. Which is where self editing comes in. It gives you a humbling experience, as you read through your essay, to correct your own mistakes. It also helps make the essay more readable, thus preparing for the next step.
After you've finished editing yourself, let other people edit you. This stage is called peer-review, and its importance is in allowing others the chance to inflict their own biases and judgments upon your essay. They will probably examine your essay more critically then you did, and often will find mistakes that you missed. And be sure to include a lot of people in your peer-review. The more insights into your opinion essay you have now, the happier you will be later on, and the advice and observations you receive will certainly go into your final copy.
The last stage in editing your first draft is the final edit, and you can do the editing here any way you want. You can go back to editing by yourself, or you can allow a small group to help you edit; either way, this is not peer editing and you are not really concerned with any further insights into your essay at this point. All that is important here is that you look for any remaining mistakes that may have been missed from all of that editing. The reason is quite simple. Once you have published your essay, you will likely offend someone who thinks different. So, Heaven help you if you have a misspelled word or an un-crossed T.
Your Final Copy
Now that you have your opinion, and have gathered all of the right facts to support you, and you have written your first draft which has then been fully edited and nitpicked by any number of people, you have finally reached the very last step in your opinion essay.
The final copy is is easier for some writers than it is for others. Some people manage to get their final copy finished up fairly quickly and without too much hassle. Others never seem to leave the self editing stage, and often double back to re-write some unsatisfactory part of the essay; a word here, a sentence there, add a coma in between. (I know this one personally. Its what always causes me to fall into writers block.)
If you are having trouble finishing your final copy, here are three suggestions:
Take another break for a few more days, and give yourself some more time to recuperate. Writing can be mentally exhausting sometimes. Coming back to your essay after a few days is no hardship, especially if it gives you a new outlook on what you are writing.
Take some more time to review the material you are working with. It never hurts to do some further studying up on your subject, and you can give yourself more time to consider your peer editing as well.
Write your final draft in some other forum before it is "officially" written and/or published or submitted. As for me, I always write the final drafts of my essays in a private journal before I write it in the proper MLA format on Microsoft Word. Doing this helps me give myself a bit of liberty to write what I want to say without deviating too far from the first draft or the editing and research.
But however you decide to finish your final copy, the only important thing is that you finish it. Hopefully, the suggestions above will help if you get stuck.
Tying It All Together...
Remember what I wrote about Socrates? He essentially said, "all knowledge is malarkey, means nothing and never will, unless you accept it." If we accept this as true, then why write about an opinion that has all the importance in the great scheme of things as an armpit? The answer, if we accept Socrates logic as true, is that Socrates's own logic was malarkey in the first place. Yet he spoke about many of his own opinions. Why?
I think the answer is this; even if what we think, feel and think we know doesn't matter much to the universe, all of it does matter to us. Putting our opinions and feelings into words gives us a valuable opportunity for self-reflection, and a valuable mode of questioning ourselves. Writing a great opinion essay will help you gain some new insights into a lot of areas, including the opposing viewpoint to your opinion and how you write. It will help you learn new things, and possibly, it will help you meet new people.
So, why write about an opinion that has no meaning in the great scheme of things? The real question is, "Why not?"