Writing an opinion essay is a versatile exercise that prepares you for delivering your ideas concisely – not only for college assignments but in various situations. From a letter to the editor to a hot-button issue public speech – knowing how to argue your point has always been a vital skill. This is not one of those papers you will never need outside academia – this is real stuff. So you might as well learn how to write it in earnest.
In this post, we will explain how to write good opinion essay on any topic – even a very controversial one – and how to be persuasive while remaining polite and respectful.
What Is an Opinion Paper?
Traditionally, let us start our guide with a definition. Opinion essays are a varied class of persuasive writing pieces with different purposes, intended audiences, and lengths. What unites all of them under one name is they center around the author's personal take on a meaningful topic. Yes, it's not as easy as declaring your undying love for cupcakes. Opinion essay writing prepares you for debates where everyone cares about the subject but cannot agree on it.
What is an opinion essay in a college setting? Usually, it's a short paper (classical 5-paragraph format prevails) where you provide your informed and substantiated opinion on some divisive or controversial topic.
An opinion essay isn't as detached and objective as an argumentative essay since it presents the author's thoughts on a topic. However, it isn't as emotional as a persuasive essay since all your opinions must be backed up by evidence. Obviously, since you are going to express your perspective, you can use the first-person language. For example, such phrases as "I believe that," "It is my strong conviction that," "The way I see it," etc.
Your arguments should be mostly evidence-driven and supported with facts. However, you can explain some of your beliefs with personal reasons or include anecdotal evidence. It works well to give your topic a human dimension and make it more relatable for your audience.
Three Basic Steps to Writing an Opinion Essay
Writing an opinion paper consists of three main stages – prewriting, writing, and proofreading. Here are some tips to make sure you won't miss anything.
1. First, pick a topic
Usually, college assignments come with a prompt providing a topic related to course material. For example:
- Do you support statesponsored healthcare?
- Do you think animal testing is necessary?
- Where do you stand on the gun control argument?
And so on – all that's left is to pick a side. If you have been given the freedom to explore any topic, you should consider the following:
- Is the topic relevant for the course? Your instructor probably wants to see what you have absorbed from the lectures and readings.
- Is the subject significant enough? Someone should care about it, apart from you.
- Is your opinion arguable? There should be people with opposing views and counterarguments.
2. Do your research
Now arm yourself with knowledge. You not only have to research evidence in support of your opinion. You should learn about the opposing side of the argument to know how to convince your opponents. Make notes and save citing for references – it will save you time later.
1. Develop an opinion paper outline
Put your notes in order and outline the flow of your argument. One short statement (topic sentence) is enough to mark a place where an entire paragraph will be.
2. Flesh out your paper
Now elaborate on each topic sentence, add stats, and explain the significance of your evidence. If you have a word limit, don't bother with it just yet. You will trim down or expand after you have your first quick and dirty draft.
You can find more information on that in the following sections, where we will look into writing each part of your essay in detail.
1. Reread and edit
First, you edit. That means you assess:
- how powerful your text is
- does it drag
- how readable it is
- how clear is your argument
Based on that, you get rid of the redundant stuff, add stats and factoids for more substance, etc.
2. Proofread for grammar, syntax, and spelling
Finally, when you are happy with how impactful your text is, you can concentrate on correcting grammar, spelling, and punctuation. With an automated spell checker, it will go quicker. By the way, we have a free one on our website.
Then, hunt for typos, which fly under the radar of most spellcheckers. These are correctly spelled words in the wrong place that we tend to mistype because of muscle memory:
- "form" instead of "from"
- "chances" instead of "changes"
- "that" instead of "than"
- "though" instead of "thought," and so on
Basic Opinion Essay Structure
You decide on the structure of opinion papers when you do the outlining. The most basic one is this:
- Introduction with a thesis statement and some background info
- Body paragraphs with the strongest arguments and evidence that you have selected
- Conclusion cementing your point
In opinion essay format, the number of the body paragraphs is pretty much down to your personal preference. However, the classic structure has three for a reason – people love this number. This way, you can deliver a strong, undiluted argument, which at the same time feels complete and all-round.
Start by selecting three main supportive points to explain your opinion and build your essay around them. If in the process you feel like there are one or two other arguments that you absolutely must include – add them. A five-paragraph structure is flexible and not binding. It is a guideline to help – not to restrict you.
Opinion Essay Introduction
Now let's look into how to start an opinion essay in detail. The first thing you should do is crystalize the main message. Ponder over your position. Why are you for/against? There can be many reasons to support an idea, but at the core, there is one underlying conviction, the sentiment or argument that will be at the center of your essay.
For example, you are opposing animal testing because you believe that cruelty of any kind has no place in a civilized society. Alternatively, you support animal testing because it helps save lives, and human life is the highest good. This core message will become your thesis statement.
Also, for a good introduction, you need an attention-grabber at the very beginning, a so-called "hook sentence." For an opinion essay, a short anecdote, a rhetorical question related to the topic, or an eye-opening piece of statistics can be a good choice. (To learn more about it, make sure to check out our blog on how to write a hook for an essay and other essay writer free resources.)
Opinion Essay Main Body
There is a rhetorical trick to make your essay more impactful by arranging the main body. Rate your select arguments based on how powerful they are. Then, place them like this:
- Start with the most powerful of them to win the ground from the start.
- In the middle, you put the weakest of the three. (You don't want the first and the last impression to be weak, what happens in the middle is less memorable anyway.)
- For the third body paragraph, use your second-best argument to finish on a strong note.
You shouldn't seek weak arguments intentionally. You just hide the weakest of the best three that you have come up with in the middle.
Okay, what if this structure doesn't fit? What if you only have two good reasons in support of your opinion? In that case, you can supplement your point by refuting the main argument of the opposing side.
To be more persuasive, agree on its validity, but diminish its power by presenting a relevant counterargument. For example, you say, "Yes, animal testing is cruel, and we should aspire to progress from it one day. However, now we don't have an adequate way to replace it with computer simulation or cell cultures without compromising the quality of results."
Opinion Essay Conclusion
Your conclusion should quickly revisit all your main points and tie them up with your thesis statement. In a way, it mirrors the overall structure of your essay. If your entire paper looks like "I think X because A, B, and C," then your conclusion should look like: "Since A, B, and C, I firmly believe X."
There are several ways to reinforce your message for a conclusion that leaves a lasting impression. For example, you can end with an inspiring story or a thought-provoking question.
Here is one final note on the overall tone of your opinion essay. Stylistically, it's a formal academic paper, so steer clear from colloquialisms and slang. Also, make sure you are not being sarcastic, caustic, aggressive, or dismissive. An opinion piece is not a rant – whatever twitter wars would make us believe.
You should take a stand in a polarizing argument and try to deliver your side of the story in an easily accessible and respectful way, thus making a step towards reconciling differences between the opposing camps. Show that although you cannot accept the opposing views, you respect your opponents and the validity of their beliefs.
Read Opinion Essay Examples to Understand the Format Better
The template we have presented here is just one way of writing an opinion paper. For more diversity, look up opinion essay samples in our free database. You can access them anytime and learn how to write an opinion essay on important social, political, and moral issues.
If you cannot find a suitable paper with a structure to emulate for your topic, order a customized sample from us! We will craft an opinion essay that fits your vision and adheres to all rules of the format and requirements of the academic style. We can also edit your paper to make it more coherent and impactful.
If you are floundering at the very beginning, check out our opinion essay topics suggestions and brainstorming tips. Happy writing, y'all!