Distinguishing Facts From Myths: Writing a Good Opinions Piece

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Joshua Sherman ’16 is one of two Opinions editors. Josh is an English major.

As someone who just went through what you’re about to go through as a freshman here at Vassar, it is without a doubt in my heart that you will soon experience some of the most intelligent, stimulating and engaging educational experiences of your life. You will find people from all walks of life and of all backgrounds here at Vassar, and you will quickly begin to realize that for every unique person you find here at Vassar, you will find just as many unique opinions and passions about everything from politics to proper stir-fry styles.

However, as much as you’ll find such unique, bright and even at times provocative opinions either in the classroom or the Retreat, you’ll be surprised how few of these opinions make their way to the Opinions section of The Miscellany News, where their insight could be broadcasted to the entire Vassar Community. This article is a short introduction to help dispel rumors and speculation about just what makes an Opinions article here with The Miscellany News, and to perhaps motivate you to share your thoughts in the form of a column or letter during your time here at Vassar.

Myth #1: I have to write a lot or write often to write an Opinions piece.

Contrary to what some may think, an Opinions piece in The Miscellany News can vary in length anywhere from a couple hundred words to well over a thousand. While you may be used to the longer, more editorialized column that can be from 700 to over 1000 words, there are also much shorter Opinions pieces known as letters that are wonderful writing opportunities in themselves. With a letter, you can write anything from 200 to 450 words covering your thoughts in a concise and sincere letter to the editor, or letter to the Vassar Community. In either case you’re writing sincerely your feelings about any topic to the Vassar Community.

What’s great about writing an Opinions piece – column or letter – is that there is no commitment if you don’t want one. While some choose to become columnists and write once a week or once every few weeks, many just write when they feel they have something worth expressing, and that’s what it’s all about. Write when you feel passionate about something, and hopefully that means you will write often.

Myth #2: An Opinions piece is about politics or social issues.

Though the editorial sections and columns of most newspapers prefer to cover the hot-topic issues to be the proverbial pulse of our nation, the day-to-day issues here at Vassar, within Poughkeepsie, or even just as a regular old college student matter just as much as politics or other issues. The fact here is that almost anything you feel passionate about is worthy of an Opinions piece. If you are willing to express your thoughts with a balance of character, emotion, and logic – the ethos, pathos and logos of the Aristotelian triangle- then you have yourself an Opinions article.

Myth #3: A freshman doesn’t have good Opinions, doesn’t know the campus well enough, or can’t write their Opinions well.

This is probably the most false of all the myths out there about not only writing for the Opinions section, but writing in general. The only way to become a better writer is to write, and the only way to be better at expressing your opinions is to express your opinions. Whether you start doing it as a first-semester freshman or last-semester senior, the only way to not only improve your rhetoric but also express yourself to the Vassar Community is to start writing. No matter who you are or of what class year you are, your opinions matter more than you may think, and I cannot begin to list the countless ideas and thoughts my friends have that would be excellent Opinions articles if they had the will to write it.

Even if you’re fearful of writing your first Opinions column or letter, the beauty of it is that you have the helping hand of not one, but two editors to guide you along, help you master your rhetoric, and assist you with navigating the treacherous world that is English grammar. The best time to start writing Opinions pieces, or any article for any publication, is as a freshman when you have the time and interest to learn how to become a better writer. Every opinion a student has here at Vassar is not only valuable, but precious, and the only way for it to be given its full potential is for it to be expressed as an Opinions column or letter.

There are likely many more myths and rumors about writing an Opinions piece, but these three to me are the most important to point out to you as incoming freshmen. Not only do I suggest you take up the opportunity to write an Opinions piece at some point during your time here at Vassar, but I highly recommend you do it now and realize how rewarding it feels to express yourself to the Vassar Community, hone your writing skills, and see your name in print. If you’re interested, feel free to email me at [email protected]

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