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A good writer approaches an editorial like an audition. He carefully composes and arranges sentences, paying close attention to the lyrical nature of his words. A good writer discovers and develops his own ideas. He searches for offbeat topics and avoids conventional assignments that prove tedious. He is an excellent researcher, taking note of everything that improves the quality of his information. A good writer spends his energy perfecting the lead of his story, weaving intricate connections throughout the whole of his piece to maintain reader interest. He understands his audience is judging him and uses his fear to his advantage.
Honesty as Basic Premise
A good editorial writer bases her views on a true premise. Everything stemming from that premise is rooted in facts and truth. A bad editorialist cherry-picks the facts convenient to the case she's tying to make. A good writer uses all the facts and may even change her opinion on the editorial accordingly. Editorialists worth their salt must be willing to leave the editorial with a completely different view than they brought into it if that's what the facts support.
Good editorialists give their opinion while keeping in mind they are representing their organization. Upholding the journalistic integrity of their publishers is just as important as their own integrity. This means meeting their deadlines and delivering consistent quality. Because they are representative of their organization, good editorialists use their public voice sensibly and with consideration of the consequences that may arise from saying the "wrong" thing.
While the information presented on the premise of an editorial should be rooted in fact, the point of an editorial is to synthesize the information to present a new view. Think of the facts as the ingredients and the editorial as the mixing with their author's signature style to create the main course. The editorial may become the basis of new facts for other writers. Good editorialists present their opinion in a balanced way while being mindful of the facts.
Style and Voice
Good editorial writers develop a voice all their own. The voice informs the context of the article as well as the author. People know when they read a piece by a certain author or when an author is merely mimicking another writer's voice. This voice is the author's personal style, composed with a delicate consideration of word choice, sentence arrangement, figurative language and formulaic devices. The language the writer uses must not overshadow the content. That is, the writer should keep himself in the background. He must do this while still presenting a voice that is recognizably his own. As such, editorialists are masters of subtlety; able to weave intricate sentences when necessary and cut back when the facts speak for themselves. They are also masters of brevity; stating their opinion, explaining the issue objectively and refuting opposing views all in usually less than 500 words.
Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.