Formula for writing a commentary

The level of vitriol and ridiculousness spread over social media is its own pandemic. Fake news, cognitive bias, and animosity have replaced critical thinking. If we could take a few steps back and think before we post, we could have a much better experience.

I am going to share with you my formula for writing commentary. This can be used for crafting an op-ed, letter to the editor, or even a simple Facebook post about a problem. By using this formula, you can significantly improve your chances of persuading readers and cut down on the noise cluttering up people’s news feeds.

  1. Start by grabbing the reader’s attention. This doesn’t have to be cute and clever. It should never sound contrived. But it should compel the reader to care enough to read further.
  • Define the problem.
  • Elaborate on why it’s a problem. Cite your sources. Include at least 3, and they must all be credible, unbiased references.
  • Anticipate opposition. Cite at least one source that counters the point you’re trying to make, and then can counter that point.
  • Conclude by calling readers to action. If you don’t offer a solution, you’re just whining.

Here are some other helpful hints:

  • Be original. Avoid copy-and-paste sharing; that is the quickest way to spread misinformation.
  • Speak to your own experiences. What have you personally seen or heard? Not hearsay. Not something that confirms your own bias. Not something that’s gone viral from the echo chamber.
  • Avoid logical fallacies. These are statements that distract from the actual issue and therefore weaken your argument. For example, a Straw Figure (formerly known as a Straw Man) is when you can’t discredit your opponent’s argument directly so you create a false or distorted argument that you can dispute. A Slippery Slope is when you say that if A happens, B is sure to happen, even if it won’t actually occur.
  • Be succinct. Say what you have to say in as few words as possible. Don’t waste readers’ time. Don’t try to be cute, clever or funny unless it comes naturally.
  • Use language your readers will understand.
  • Proofread your work before posting.
  • Be prepared for backlash. If you take a stance on an issue, you’re going to have to stand by it. Even if you change your mind later and realize you were wrong, it’s highly likely someone took a screen shot of your post and will repost it just to humiliate you. There is no due process in the court of public opinion.

If our goal is to have valuable experiences on social media, we need to up our game. Stop making knee-jerk reactions, recirculating hoaxes and regurgitating discussions when we really don’t know anything about the particular subject. By writing clear, compelling content, we can add value to the time we spend online.

Published by Gwen Clayton

Gwen Clayton is a freelance writer living in northeast Indiana. She is the former editor of the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, and has written for numerous other publications since 1986. Her first book, the paranormal thriller "Fermata Cellars," was published in 2016, and her Bible-inspired short story, "Purr: A story of love, lions and a Hebrew named Daniel," was released in 2019. She recently finished writing, "Zinfandel’s Grimoire," which is the sequel to 'Fermata;' that book is in the editing and design phase of publication. Her current works in progress include the third book in the Rivervine Trilogy, tentatively titled, "The Comatis," and the nonfiction, "Dragon's Poker Table: A rocker chick's breast cancer journey." Her books are independently published under the imprint, Rivervine LLC. In addition to writing books, Clayton contracts as a copywriter for local, small businesses. She lives in southwest Fort Wayne with her husband Eddie, a retired military veteran and avid photographer. When not working on their various projects, the couple enjoy traveling through middle America searching for adventure, patronizing mom-and-pop businesses, and promoting the general welfare of current and former service men and women. Gwen serves as the marketing chair and board member of the Northeast Indiana Base Community Council. She holds a bachelor of science degree in public administration from Regis University.

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