We cannot afford to ignore the voices of young people.
We cannot afford to trivialize their demands.
What they say matters.
These are the words of Luis Alfonso de Alba in a recent Japan Times
article. As the UN special envoy for the Climate Action Summit, De Alba was speaking about the frontlines of climate change, but his words could also apply to the importance of young people's voices in countless local, national, and international issues.
The views of young people today will, quite literally, shape the world of tomorrow.
So, it’s time to pick up a pen, dear writers, and share your opinion with the masses.
Perhaps the most democratic form of journalism, the op-ed is founded on the idea that every person has a voice worthy of a public platform. Tell us what change you would like to see in the world, in your country, or in your community. From the global plight of refugees to education policy in your country to activism in your neighborhood—we want to hear your opinion about something that matters to you. This month, Write the World and the Journalism Education Association
are giving you the floor.
- MAKE IT PERSONAL: We want to know what you think. It’s always tempting to check out the research and opinions that are already out there before crafting your own response. But before you consider what other people think, carefully contemplate your chosen topic and jot down any ideas that come to mind, as well as any emotions that surface.
- INVESTIGATE YOUR OPINION: Why do you think what you think? Can you identify the people or experiences that have influenced you in forming this opinion? Your friends? Your family? School? The media or the culture in which you live? Exploring the root of your opinion demonstrates to your readers that you have thought deeply about the issues at hand.
- BACK UP YOUR IDEAS: Once you have a sense of what you want to say, start collecting evidence. Look at the existing research on your topic, find persuasive quotes from reputable sources, and/or identify experiences from your own life (or anecdotes from people you know) that demonstrate the validity of your perspective.
- WELCOME CHANGE: As your knowledge deepens, your ideas will likely evolve. This is a good thing! Be open to your perspective becoming more complex and nuanced.
- TAKE A STAND: An op-ed is your chance to weigh in on a social, political, or cultural issue. Most essentially, an op-ed asserts an opinion. So be sure to include a clear thesis statement that unequivocally states your central argument
- CAPTIVATE YOUR READER: An opinion piece should be a riveting read. Make sure your writing is thoughtful, reflective and clearly structured. Think about starting the piece with a story or anecdote that hooks your reader. Make sure your argument is compelling and watertight from beginning to end.
- MAKE IT UNIVERSAL: As you share your opinion, keep in mind that your goal is to persuade your audience to listen up. Oftentimes, the most compelling op-eds are both personal and universal. Try sharing an experience from your life that supports your opinion, while also explaining (or showing through examples) how this topic impacts people on a broader scale.
- GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT'S DUE: Don’t forget to cite your sources.
** Check out the sample outline under “Resources” for more tips on how to write a stellar op-ed.
Forms of Persuasion
Some readers might be convinced by hard facts and statistics. Others might be persuaded by an emotional anecdote, or a story from your own life. Writing a compelling op-ed often requires looking at the topic from multiple angles—each perspective helping to solidify your argument, while convincing readers to listen up. Here are some different strategies to try out as you craft your argument. You might focus on two or three, or perhaps all forms of persuasion will come into play in your piece.
Who is Eligible?
- Personal Experience: The writer describes an experience he or she has had.
- Expert Opinion: The writer draws on the opinion of an expert—someone trained in a particular area, or someone who has relevant personal experience.
- Example: The writer provides an example that supports a larger idea or pattern.
- Analogy: The writer compares the situation to another similar situation.
- Facts and Statistics: The writer uses facts or numbers to prove their idea. Often this information comes from other sources, such as books, newspapers, or websites.
- Logic: The writer uses reasoning or logic to argue their point.
- Emotion: The writer makes an emotional appeal to the reader.
Young writers ages 13-18
600 – 1,000 words
Syreeta McFadden is a writer and professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. Syreeta’s work deals largely with gender, politics, race and culture, and explores the cultural narratives of communities. Her work has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, The Nation, BuzzFeed News, NPR, Brooklyn Magazine, Feministing
and The Guardian
, where she had been a regular contributor. A former urban planner and housing development specialist, she holds degrees from Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently working on a collection of essays.
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
- Best Entry: $100 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the winning piece, and an interview with the author will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Runner up: $50 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the piece will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Best Peer Review: $50 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the best peer review and an interview with the reviewer will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Prizes: The winning entrant will receive $100, and the runner up and best peer-reviewer will both receive $50.
- Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
- Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, March 9 and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
- March 2: Competition Opens
- March 9: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
- March 13: Reviews returned to Writers
- March 17: Final Submissions Due
- March 27: Winners Announced
Our Poetry and Spoken Word Competition opens Monday, April 6th.
Stay tuned for more details!