Writing Assignment: Express An Opinion

by Randy Murray on January 21, 2011

Opinion can be very interesting. This I believe. It helps readers understand how you think, even if they don’t agree with you. The best written opinions show how the writer arrives at the opinion, how facts and observations to support these thoughts, and how they are organized and presented.

Most important, the best writers and thinkers make it very clear that what they are presenting are opinions and not facts and that they know the difference between the two things.

Newspaper columns and blogs are particularly good places for opinion. They’re immediate, timely, and adaptable. These outlets allow opinions to flow, to be examined, and, over time, refined. Truly great thinkers return to and revise their opinions. It’s unfortunate that the media and the public punish politicians who change their minds, calling them “wafflers.” I have another term, one for people who do not change their opinion when presented with new facts and information: insane. Retain your sanity and consider updating your opinions. Doing it in writing is an excellent way to examine these opinions closely.

For more detail on POV, see Perspective, Opinion, and Point Of View — Distinctions That Matter To Writers And Readers

For today’s assignment, write a personal opinion. You may state supporting facts, but be clear in your language that you understand that what you say is opinion, personal, and changeable.

For extra points, try on an opinion that you yourself may not hold. Put an extreme argument in the mouth of a character, or try one on for size. The following opinion does not necessarily express the views of management.

Here’s my example:

I like people, as a rule, when I meet them in person, but I’m convinced that as a whole, people are lazy, ignorant, and dangerous. I don’t restrict that to any particular group. I don’t think Americans, for instance, are any better, worse, or different from people who live any other place. They’re all a lazy, stupid lot. Nothing particular exceptional about Americans in that regard.

The vast public largely doesn’t understand history. They have no clue about how things really work. And don’t get me started on their ignorance of science. And they don’t value the learning and work that would bring them an understanding of these things. Because of this ignorance and laziness they become dangerous, especially when things don’t go their way or their ideas and preconceptions are challenged. Not just Americans, but definitely Americans, too.

I’m not sure if there’s ever been a time when it was different. The voices of reason and enlightenment are few and far between. The vast populace, that sea of humanity, is cattle. Try not stir them up with populist rhetoric and cause them to stampede—you can’t control them. Pull any individual out of the mass and talk with that individual person and you have a good chance of finding someone who can be pleasant, maybe even willing to think for a bit, but let them rejoin the herd and they’re lost, part of a mooing, stamping mass. Frankly, strike that metaphor. I grew up on a farm and it’s insulting to cattle to group them with the mass of unthinking humans.

It does not fill me with hope to think this way, but until I see any reasons to think otherwise, this remains my view of humanity.

Not you, of course. Just everyone else.

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