We recently sent out a call for manuscripts for our Viewpoint column, editorial essays on topics of importance to nurses and in health care. We got a lot of submissions. Few were accepted for publication. Why? Because they were missing one or more of the essential elements of a good editorial essay: a clear focus on an important and controversial topic, a well-reasoned argument, a balanced presentation, implications and possible solutions.
The topic. Important, timely, and controversial. Write about something that matters. Not yesterday or last year – now. Write about something with conflicting views – if everyone agrees there’s no need for an editorial.
The argument. Explain the issue. Then, analyze it. Support your view with evidence. Do not speculate, imagine, surmise, or assume. Don’t offer other opinions as evidence – because polls or pundits support your view doesn’t mean it’s right. Persuade the reader with a cogent, evidence-based analysis.
Balance. No rants allowed. Balance is what makes the difference between a persuasive argument and a rant. Present a strong case for your point of view while carefully considering and analyzing opposing views.
So what. Why does it matter? What does it mean? Connect the dots for the reader by clearly stating the implications. Don’t exaggerate or conjecture – you will lose credibility. Implications should clearly and logically have evolved from your discussion of the issue and your argument.
Now what. Propose solutions. Offer alternative approaches. Send a call for action. Do not vacillate. Do not give readers an out at the end – there may be no easy solutions but there are possible solutions.
And finally, the most important element in an editorial – intellectual honesty. An editorial should be based on truth – it presents your beliefs and opinion and the facts as they are known. Never mislead the reader. Never misrepresent or leave out facts to bolster your argument.
Remember – good writing has the power to transform lives and none more than a powerful editorial. Start writing!