Thanks to Preeti Kulkarni for contributing to this article.

In the previous article in this toolkit, we talked a bit about the structure of an op-ed. We outlined the most common type of op-ed, the “high school essay” format, and gave tips for writing each section. Let’s review the basics of structuring an op-ed: 

For a successful introduction or lede, hooking the reader into your op-ed while connecting your topic to the news cycle is the key. The purpose of the thesis, which comes after the lede, is to state your topic, either explicitly or implicitly. The argument comes after the thesis and introduces your evidence. The “meat” of your op-ed is in the three body paragraphs, and this is where you should place your evidence. In the “to be sure” paragraph, just before the conclusion, you outline what those opposing your argument have to say and then refute it. The conclusion should then tie back in to your main idea. 

This article will discuss why producing a well-written op-ed is especially vital today, and how using an academic writing style will help you overcome some of the challenges currently faced by journalists.

The Challenges Faced by Modern Journalists

Writing in an academic style is one of the essential parts of writing an op-ed. Academic style basically means using the proper vocabulary, which will increase your credibility and make sure that your ideas are well-received.

In recent years, the importance of good, credible writing has increased exponentially because of the challenges faced by journalists. The Digital Age is often called the “Golden Age of Journalism,” because of the quick access to information, a broader and more well-informed audience, and all the creative methods available for journalists to produce their work.

However, with these gifts come insurmountable struggles. One of these challenges is the audience’s lack of trust in the news. According to, 46% of journalists feel that the public’s lack of confidence in the media is the biggest challenge to modern journalism. It’s not surprising that they feel that way. With the pressure to constantly produce stories in a 24/7 news cycle, lack of resources because of the pandemic, and the spread of disinformation on the internet, it is becoming challenging to keep the public’s trust. 

Along with the general distrust, job security has been another significant concern for journalists, with the switch from print to online journalism decimating over 8,000 jobs in one year alone. Some journalists have had to take on the work of co-workers who have been laid off, but without receiving any extra pay. 

Many journalists work for more than one publication, and so fact that job losses are industry-wide is even more devastating. With the global pandemic requiring more people to work from home, navigating remote work has been an additional struggle for journalists. The rapid speed of a news cycle, the possibility of quarantine, and the difficulty of finding real-time evidence have made modern journalism incredibly challenging.

Why Writing Needs to Be in Academic Style

Because of the intense difficulties that journalists face today, the quality of the writing that they produce is more critical than ever. For this reason, it is paramount that when writing an op-ed or piece of investigative journalism, you use an academic writing style.

While some may argue that the five-paragraph essay with academic vocabulary is out of style and not organic, it is anything but that. That structure gives writers a guideline to follow, and allows them to take creative license in other ways. One way is your vocabulary.

In the previous two articles, we emphasized the importance of creating a distinctive voice in your op-ed. Play around with style and tone to make your writing stand out, while still informing the public. The best way to create an appealing voice is to use your vocabulary wisely.  Avoid jargon that can confuse people. Remember that the average person does not want to read words that can only be found in an encyclopedia.

However, with that being said, use an academic, professional-sounding vocabulary. Aim for clarity, objectivity, formality, and precision in your word choice. Avoid contractions. Make your piece readable and credible at the same time. Doing so will help you stand out in an always-difficult field, that will only get more challenging in the future. If you want to read more about the structure of body paragraphs, quote integration, and tips for the “so what?” paragraph, read on!

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