Ten Ways to Write an Editorial

Sometimes you write an editorial because you have something important to say. But sometimes you write an editorial because you've set aside part of a page for an editorial and now it's deadline time. When inspiration fails to strike, one thing that might get your mental gears moving is thinking about different types of editorials.

Different people have different schemes for classifying editorials. This article identifies 10 types of editorials, and some editorials will fall into more than one of these categories. You may also come up with editorials that don't fit these categories (feel free to offer additional ideas, using the comments form below). This is only a start – but it's a start.

  1. Agenda-setting: An editorial that calls an issue to public attention. The goal is not to set people on a particular course of action, but to put an issue into the public arena that isn't already there. You're not telling people what to think, but what to think about.
  2. Informational: Gives people background information on an issue. This piece may not put forth a strong opinion, but it gives people facts they may not have, or ideas they may not have put together, and so better equips them to form their own opinion on an issue.
  3. Interpretive: Explores an issue in a way that goes beyond the facts. Motives may be suggested, or consequences foreseen. This editorial helps the reader understand something that has happened or is happening. It tells us how to think about something.
  4. Problem-solving: an editorial that points out a problem, and suggests a solution. This is very often done with a five-step structure called the "motivated sequence." (Grab attention, describe problem, offer solution, visualize solution, call for action.)
  5. Endorsement: This editorial commends something, or holds something up as praiseworthy. It could be a candidate, an organization, a decision by a public figure, or the public's response to a situation. It could be a piece boosting local pride, or congratulating the high school football team. The goal of this editorial is to make the reader feel good about something.
  6. Forgotten value: An editorial that urges people to reevaluate their priorities, and perhaps recapture a value that is in danger of being forgotten, such as bravery, honor, or truth. This may be an editorial that illuminates a trend, and helps the reader see the consequences of continuing on our current path.
  7. Criticizing: This editorial condemns something, pointing out its shortcomings, and possibly even holding it up to ridicule. This could be satirical.
  8. Persuasive: An editorial that talks to people on one side of an issue, and tries to covert them to another side. The purpose is to change minds.
  9. Reinforcing: An editorial that tries to solidify support for a position, usually by giving people more reasons to believe what they already believe.
  10. Entertainment: This is an editorial written strictly for its entertainment value, generally a light, humorous piece.