Being opinionated – not writing to be liked


“Accept you will be hated sometimes.” Suzanne Moore, columnist for The Guardian made this point in a session we attended about how to write opinion pieces. It’s good advice. We pitch education opinion pieces regularly but it can be hard for a client to accept that not everyone will agree with their views.

Suzanne argued that anyone writing an opinion piece had to understand that they couldn’t please everyone. In fact writing to please everyone made for dull reading.  So, you need to think about what you’re trying to do. Do you want to get a reaction? Argue an opinion? Stir things up?

For many of our clients, this means that they need to know what they stand for and to have an opinion. This can be tricky. Regulation, reputation issues, legal matters, the views of funders or investors, can all stifle an organisation from stating a strong view. If that’s the case then it’s worth pausing for thought.

Hugh Muir, editor and columnist at The Guardian, also joined the session and underlined that opinion writing needs strong views. Be surprising. Don’t be boring.

Our advice to our clients has always been to understand your position and be able to defend it. Hearing from some of the leading writers and editors underlined how important this is. Suzanne finished by sharing a number of key points.

  • Read opposing views
  • Listen to editors and do what they say
  • Care about your subject
  • A little passion goes a long way
  • No one other than you has your voice
  • Be nice
  • You’re only as good as your last article
  • Writing is a complex combination of ego and insecurity

Afterwards she acknowledged they’d been written late on a boozy Saturday night but they still make complete sense.