Op Ed Writing: Countering Your Opponent’s Argument

MargotFriedman-HeadShotMargot Friedman, principal of Dupont Circle Communications, conducts trainings on writing and placing opinion editorials. Please like Op Ed Talk with Margot on Facebook to share free tips and strategies.

Don’t say your opponent’s name. Don’t make the other side’s case for them.

That’s the conventional wisdom about addressing the opposition’s arguments in many advocacy contexts. In opinion editorial writing, however, the conventional wisdom may not apply.

To make your op ed more persuasive and thoughtful, consider including a rebuttal paragraph that refutes your opponent’s main argument. Rebuttal paragraphs that raise and dismiss the other side’s argument are often located after the last paragraph of the body and before the conclusion, but they can appear anywhere.

A rebuttal paragraph is important for reinforcing your credibility. It shows that you have thought about both sides of the issue and you have good reasons for coming down on one side or the other. Your support for a particular policy is based on facts and research, not knee-jerk ideology.

A rebuttal paragraph also addresses the concerns in your readers’ minds. If your reader has a question — such as “this is a good idea, but how much will it cost?”– and you never address it, you might miss the opportunity to win her over.

Here’s what rebuttal paragraphs look like in actual practice:

  • Some taxpayers may grumble at spending the public’s money on DNA tests for individuals on death row. That argument doesn’t hold water in Skinner’s case. In 2000, the investigative journalists at the Medill Innocence Project offered to pay for the DNA tests. Ten years later, that offer still stands. There may be other objections to testing the evidence, but they don’t outweigh the potential horror of executing an innocent man. http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/DNA-testing-works-but-not-if-we-fail-to-utilize-1695099.php
  •  There will always be folks who don’t want to change. They do things the way their daddy did and the way his daddy did. But we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done. America has already allowed China and Europe to get ahead of us in creating wind and solar technologies. In 2001, we owned 28 percent of the global market share for manufacturing solar panels; now, it is only 6 percent. If we don’t act now, we will wind up dependent on them for clean energy technology in the same way that we are now dependent on imported oil from the Middle East. http://ww2.roanoke.com/editorials/commentary/wb/217949/

What’s the hardest part about rebutting your opponent’s argument in an op ed? Share your experiences in the space below or ask a different question about writing publishable op eds.

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Guest Blogger in Media Relations and Press | 1 comment
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