Project #46301 - Op-ed piece (Paper) (Opinion Edited)


OP-ED Guidelines.






Purpose:You will develop and write an op-ed piece that will be submitted to The Wall Street Journal.Although the initial version of this deliverable is considered your “first draft,” it should be the product of your best abilities. You, the assistant account executive, should feel confident sending this to your direct boss (me) and your client contact for review.  You must also complete and submit a Writing Blueprint.


The first draft will be ungraded.  I will provide the usual amount of feedback and an estimated grade.  The final version will be graded out of the full 175 points.


The Set-Up: Imagine once again that you are still an assistant account executive at ACME Public Relations. As you may remember, your client, the Commission on Public Relations Education (see, has recently been on a major public relations push related to its funding of a major study about the state of writing skills in the public relations industry.  You’ve thus far worked up a backgrounder/position paper and a news release for a media kit.


NOTE: Remember, the conceit is that CPRE funded the Cole et al. study, which it actually did not. We are also assuming that the Cole et al. study has just been released, which is not the case since its publication date is 2009 and it’s 2014 now.


While engaging in your routine environmental scanning duties for this client, you came across an advertorial published in a special advertising section on The Wall Street Journal’s website.  (See it online at It ran on May 18, 2009, so you’ll have to fudge its timing, too.)This advertorial, by Joe Mullich, “Rising to the Challenge: America’s Math and Science Curriculum is Key to Future Competiveness,” discusses Intel’s $120 million pledge over the next decade to stimulate young peoples’ interest in math and science.  This advertorial is found in your Weeks 8/9 course folder.


Text Box: Sidebar from the Instructor

The Mullich advertorial was published in a special advertising section onThe Wall Street Journal’s website.So it’s notan earned media op-ed; it’s a paid editorial, also known as an advertorial (a portmanteau – the combination of two words’ sounds and meanings -- of“advertising” and “editorial”). 
PRSG mentions advertorials in passing on p. 149. 
If you are interested in learning more, visit Also, Exxon-Mobil is among the most well-known and frequent corporate users of advertorials. Google “Exxon Mobil advertorials” to check them (and their critics) out.














CPRE obviously has a stake in educational issues, given its involvement with the Cole et al. study that found the writing skills of recent entrants into the PR industry (in other words, recent college graduates) to be lacking.  Plus…


Let’s add another layer of conceit to the course…




Assume the following is true (it is not): CPRE has recently partnered with the College Board (, which added a writing portion to its SAT exams in 2005 and then removed it in 2014 and is the “parent” of the National Commission on Writing) and the International Association of Business Communicators ( These three organizations have joined together on a new initiative to get corporate America involved to stimulate writing education. The American Association of Publishers (see, an industry trade association for over 300 publishing companies) has pledged $25 million over the next decade.




As any strategically minded PR professional worth their salt would, you see the puzzle pieces coming together. Eureka! The lightbulb goes on over your head! The Mullich article in the Journal gives the CPRE-CB-IABC partnership a perfect opening to talk about its own initiative in the Journal! You pitch your boss on the idea of writing and pitching an op-ed to the Journal. Your boss and CPRE love the idea. Now it’s up to you to execute this tactic.


Execution of tasks: Between the copious lecture notes, readings and the Week 8 discussion, you should be more than ready to tackle this op-ed.


1.       Read the Mullich piece. It’s in the Weeks 8/9 course folder.


2.      Think about what you want to say in the op-ed:


a.       For content, try these sources:


                                                              i.      Your Summary of Scholarly Article


                                                            ii.      National Writing Project (


                                                          iii.      National Commission on Writing (


                                                          iv.      Know your audience/media outlet: Visit


b.      Your op-ed should discuss this initiative within a context of “we can’t leave writing education behind in America’s quest to excel in math and science education.”


c.       You want to respond to (or springboard from) the Mullich piece to make your point that writing education deserves attention as well.


3.      Think about the kinds of appeals or persuasive strategies you’ll employ.


4.      Think about what you want the op-ed to accomplish:


    1. Persuade readers that the state of writing and writing education in America is worthy of attention.

    2. Get readers (think about who reads the Journal) to consider pledging to the initiative without overtly asking them to do so.


c.       Remember, U.S. businesses lose nearly $3 billion annually due to poor workplace writing(see National Commission on Writing, 2004). 


5.      Working through the Writing Blueprint (the list of questions that helps you figure out your piece’s underlying strategy, messages, target publics, goals, etc.).  You will have to submit this along with your op-ed.


6.      Sketch out an outline of your argument.


7.      Develop your outline into your op-ed.


Assumptions: There are a couple of real-life pesky details that need to be addressed:




  1. TheJournal’s op-ed submission policy does not allow op-eds that are responses to Journal articles. Your op-ed is responding to, or rather springboarding from, the Mullich advertorial. For the sake of argument and completing this deliverable, let’s assume that the Journal’s submission policy allows for response op-eds.

  2. How you handle this next assumption is up to you. It may or may not affect the writing or your op-ed:



    1. You can consider the Mullich article as it truly is (an opinion piece in a special advertising section tothe Journal) OR

    2. you can pretend that it was an earned media op-ed that ran in the print version of the Journal.


My expectations: Your op-ed should:


1.      Follow the Journal’s submission guidelines (with the exception above):


a.       600-1200 words.


b.      Double-spaced.


c.       Make a strong argument.


d.      Use jargon-free language.


2.      Be bylined by whomever you feel is the “best” person at CPRE.  See the list of choices at


3.      Be in final form (even though it’s considered a first draft for the purposes of this course).


  1. On either the cover or separate page, please tell me the persuasive approach(es) (i.e.,  your strategy or scheme, did you employ the inoculation effect or Maslow’s hierarchy of beliefs?) you’ve chosen to use and why. This will help you to more clearly connect this deliverable to the course materials/lecture notes.

  2. Also on either the cover or separate page, please provide me with your op-ed’sword count. It must fall between 600 and 1200 words.



What’s my endgame with this piece?


  • Your operational goal is, of course, to write an engaging, thought-provoking persuasive opinion piece.  This piece will construct an erudite and cogent argument while also trading on the ethos and name of the byliner, and is so compelling that the Journal is inclined to run it.

  • Your mission goalis to increase the knowledge and positively affect the attitudes and behaviors of the Journal’s readers vis-à-vis the topic of the state of writing and writing education in the United States.






Writing is more than grammar and style. Crafting a good sentence is an exercise in logic, and logic is what editorials are all about. The writer who has not mastered good syntax probably has not mastered good logic either. The mental processes necessary to one are essential to the other. So under the heading of “writing” the critic will be looking at all the things that make an editorial hang together.


First, ask some basic questions. Does the editorial state an opinion? Is the opinion clear and unambiguous? Does it flow from logical arguments? Is it supported by an adequate fund of information? Are the opinion and its factual underpinnings specific, or are they couched in generalities? Has the writer recognized and dealt with opposing arguments? Is the editorial fair? Does it contain any cheap shots?


Second, ask whether the writer has put across his point clearly and skillfully. Are his or her sentences easy to read? Are they short and punchy, or are they long and ponderous? Does one sentence follow logically to the other?


Watch for awkward phraseology that forces the reader to go back for a second reading to get the point. Watch for weasel words and words or expressions subject to more than one interpretation. Watch for pronouns whose antecedents are hard to identify.




The editorial page is the intellectual heart of the newspaper; it should present the English language at its best. Dangling participles, misplaced modifiers, mixed metaphors, redundancies, superfluities, and clichés infest many an editorial page. They should be avoided. Be alert for false analogies that cloud both prose and logic. Call attention to words whose meanings don’t quite fit their contexts.


Are the editorials lively or limp? If they tend to lull instead of lift, look for the reasons. Often the writer clutters his or her sentences with clauses and phrases when one-word modifiers would do. Don’t let him or her get away with writing “The car, which was red in color, departed from the scene at a high rate of speed,” when he or she could write, “The red car sped away.”


Watch for overuse of the passive voice and the abstract, amorphous subject. The reader should be able to visualize most subjects. And the subject of most sentences should be DOING something instead of having something done to it.


Amorphous subject, passive voice: “An overall improvement in the health, nutritional, and sanitary standards of low-income residents was the objective of the proposal presented by Joe Doakes, director of the Department of Social Services.”




Concrete subject, active voice: “Social Services director Joe Doakes proposed improvements in health, nutrition, and sanitation among low-income residents.’




Leads: Do they invite the reader to continue? Are they concise? Do they tell the reader where you are taking him or her?


Sentence Structure: Are sentences long, short, simple? Do they use the active voice? Passive? Could they be shorter? Less complex?


Editorial Voice/Tone: Is the editorial impassioned? Reasoned? Benign? Strident? Uncertain? Does it have flair? Style?


Argument: Does the editorial consider opposing arguments? Does it consider complexity and attempt to reduce it simple terms? If the editorial calls for action, does it say who should act?


Logic: If the editorial is outlined and reduced to basic elements of argument, does it flow logically? Does it conclude?


Facts: How does the editorial use facts? Do they get in the way of argument?


Continuity: Are the transitions smooth? Does the editorial have a beginning, middle and end?


The single most important guideline for critiques is that they are an exercise in constructive criticism, designed to help everyone improve their work, not to destroy egos. The kind of thoughtful analysis you hope to receive from the others in your group is exactly what you should provide for them. Finally, remember, not all criticism has to be negative.


The following was provided to the Forum by the National Conference of Editorial Writers. For additional guidelines on writing op-eds, consult the Association of Opinion Page Editors at


Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 11/05/2014 08:00 pm
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