Make Your Voice Heard: Write a Personal and Persuasive Essay | Sara Eckel | Skillshare

Make Your Voice Heard: Write a Personal and Persuasive Essay

Sara Eckel, Author

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9 Lessons (49m)
    • 1. Introduction: Writing With Purpose

    • 2. Choosing a Topic

    • 3. The Rough Sketch

    • 4. The Lede

    • 5. The Nut Graf

    • 6. The Argument

    • 7. The Kicker

    • 8. Editing

    • 9. Pitching & Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Many of us have strong opinions right now—personal and political beliefs we want to express, causes we want to promote, professional insights we want to share. But it can be difficult to cut through the noise of social media and the 24-hour news stream. In this class, author and essayist Sara Eckel will show you how to write a persuasive essay and make your voice heard. Whether you're writing on a broad topic like health care or immigration, or something very personal, like how you met your spouse, this class will help you stand up for your beliefs and speak for others.

In this class, you'll learn to identify the stories from your life that will connect with readers, write an attention-grabbing opener, find the right facts to support your argument, and write a satisfying ending that will have readers clicking the share button.

By the end, you'll have an opinion piece that is the appropriate length and style for placement in a newspaper opinion page. Sara will also explain how to pitch your piece to newspapers, trade publications, blogs and other outlets.

This class is for:

  • Beginning writers who want to learn the basics of personal and persuasive essays
  • Activists advocating for a political or social issue
  • Business owners and professionals seeking to raise awareness of their services and expertise
  • Students writing essays for applications, tests and independent study projects
  • More experienced writers looking to break into opinion journalism


1. Introduction: Writing With Purpose: Whenever I write a piece, I'm not just speaking for me. I'm not just speaking about my own stuff. I'm speaking for all the other people who are in the same situation, that gives me more courage, and just more energy to get the piece done. My name is Sarah Eckel, and I am a freelance writer. My work has appeared in a bunch of publications including The Washington Post, The New York Times. I've written for the BBC, The Boston Globe magazine. I'm also the author of this book which is called, It's Not You, 27 Wrong Reasons You're Single. I wrote this book because I met my husband when I was 39, and spent the previous 20 years trying to figure out what was wrong with me that I couldn't find a relationship. After I got married, I realized that all of that time I spent wondering what was wrong with me, am I too this, am I too that, that was just a complete waste of time. It really taught me that when you really write about yourself, from honesty, you think you're just writing about yourself, but actually you can speak for a lot of different people. In this class, we're going to find the ways that you can help identify the parts of your life, the stories in your life that you can put out into the world, and really get your voice heard. We're going to go over a basic 600-word opinion piece. You're going to learn how to brainstorm really attention-grabbing openers, how to outline, how to find the right facts that really support your story, how to write a really good ending that leaves the reader really satisfied. We're going to go through all the various parts of that essay, and by the end you will have a 600-word opinion piece. The goal of an opinion piece is to present your own unique point of view in a way that really can help others, and can speak for others. I'm really excited to help you find your voice, and share your opinion with the world. Let's get started. 2. Choosing a Topic: This lesson is on choosing a topic. Some of you might already you have a topic and you are willing to go with that. I think it's really great to think about what makes you angry. What are the things that you post on Facebook or retweet on Twitter? When you get together with your friends, what is the thing that you want to talk about? Mind you, you don't want the NSA to be around. No one's going to listen to that. You want to find something that you feel really passionate about. I find that just thinking about the things that make me angry or that just make me want to call a friend and talk about are afraid ones to start with. It's also really helpful to think about who am I writing this piece for? Whose voice am I trying to raise? Who benefits from this piece? Even though you're talking about your personal experience, no doubt your experience is one that has been shared by many other people. If you're passionate about the health insurance issue or the health care industry and you have had a personal experience, for example with not being able to get insurance or having an illness, there's a lot of other people who have had that experience too. By sharing your story, you can help them and you can help raise awareness, not just of the situation that you are in or are currently in, but in a situation that a lot of people are in. That can really be a great way to connect. You don't need to be a professional speaker on something. You don't need to be an expert with a lot of letters after your name. But to write a really compelling opinion piece, it helps to have very personal experience with this issue. For example if you care about climate change, you don't have to be a scientist, but you should be concerned about the fact that, how it's late October and it's really getting warm and I'm concerned about my children's future. That's plenty. That's more than enough. Because there are a lot of people who are also having [inaudible] concerns and if you can express that in a really articulate way, you can help give voice to them too. This first assignment is called the Rant. What I want to do is think about a difficult situation that you have faced and explain to us what people don't understand, what do people not get about this issue that you want to talk about. Just go off and just let it all out. You can be as angry as you want or you can be as passionate as you want, this is not the final draft. This is just you really letting it all out and do it for about 10 or 20 minutes, if you get stuck you can say, here's what people don't get or I know I'm not the only person who feels this way because. Do that and then we'll be back soon. 3. The Rough Sketch: Now that you've finish your rant, it's time to take a look at what you've written and just figure out what is the key point that I'm trying to make here? Is this a point that I can defend? You don't have to have all the statistics right in front of you at this moment. But you want to have a sense that if you are saying that, ''The pharmaceutical industry is very profitable,'' you probably already know that, you don't have to have the exact statistic at this moment, at your disposal. As you go through your rant, just figure out what are your key points? What do people know, that you need to understand, and how are you going to support this argument? But also really important to ask yourself, is this a story that other people will connect with? It's understandable if you're ma'am, that your boss, Karen, always gets super upset when you are just a couple minutes late from lunch. That might be a thing that genuinely makes you mad. But that's probably, in itself not going to make a great essay because that's just going to be like calling your friend on the phone and she's like, ''Oh yeah, she sounds like a bitch, whatever,'' What maybe is in that rant is something that you have to say about the contemporary workplace, about efficiency, about how we value time. So within this very personal granular thing, there might be a more extensive topic. That's the thing that you want to look for is a, what is a more expansive topic here? What might other people connect with when they read this? Your next writing assignment is to just write a rough sketch. Just write the main idea of your piece, which we call the nut, the main idea of the piece, and then three to five supporting points for that piece. Those points could be something that has to do with a statistic of something kind of a very factual thing like 14 percent of Americans say that they wish they had more time for lunch, or it could be another anecdote. It could be a quote from somebody else. So it could be different things. But don't worry too much about exactly how you're going to make these points. Just state your main idea and then 3-5 supporting points. I will see you in the next video. 4. The Lede: Now you're ready to start your first draft. I am going to take you through the basic structure of a 600 word piece. The beginning of the essay is called the lede. I don't know why it's spelled that weird way, but this is the part where you really want to grab the reader's attention. You don't have to say everything that the essay is about. What you just want to do is draw them in. This is really where your personal experience is really important because this is the part where you explain why you are the right person to write this piece, why you are the authority here. That's what we're going to start with. I recently worked with an Indian immigrant named Kavita Krishnan on an op-ed that we were able to place in Houston Chronicle, the pieces called, Smart, educated, and skilled - but stuck at home. Recently, my four-year-old daughter asked me, "Why are you always home? Why does only daddy go to the office?" Her question broke my heart. When I was growing up in India, I watched my mother go to her banking job each day. This gave me confidence that I can one day be a professional. Now my daughter has to watch her mother sitting at home, lonely and bored. What I really like about this lede is that, we really don't know yet exactly what the issue she's talking about, but it's such a universal experience. She takes you into the eyes of her daughter and to being a woman who is looking at her daughter, who is so confused and feeling so terrible about the fact that she can't set the example for her daughter that she wants to set. Even if you're not parent, even if you're not particularly ambitious, we can all relate to that moment of a child saying what's going on? Now, later this piece will get into some very complicated issues about her visa and why it is that she isn't working. But right now for the lede, that isn't really important to get all that technical stuff in there. What you want is just this one very clear emotional moment. What really works about this lede is that she tells us a story. She takes us into this very intimate moment with her daughter. Stories are the thing you want to focus on. Stories are what motivate people and stories really transcend politics. If you have a really human moment, people are going to connect with that no matter what their point of view is when they're going into it. That's different from facts. You can have a lot of facts but those in themselves won't necessarily motivate people. I think that's just the thing to remember is stories before facts. For your first reading assignment, we covered Krishnan's piece; Smart, educated, and skilled - but stuck at home. We're going to be talking about this piece throughout this class. As you read it, think about the way that she weaves together personal anecdotes with a lot of very hard data and statistics to create this very compelling piece defending a position that she's really passionate about. For your next writing assignment, I want you to brainstorm some different ledes. These are just moments in your life when this issue became really important to you. It might be a moment where your mind was changed about the issue or it might just be a moment where you realize how important this issue that you read about in the paper or see on the news is actually impacting your family and your community. Just jot down as many lede ideas as you can. If nothing in particular is resonating at this moment, don't worry about that too much. Just write down what you can. Sometimes the lede comes to you later in the writing process. Sometimes you've figured out right away, but other times it happens later as you're even just looking at various data or other people's stories and then you think, that's it. Don't just write it down and don't think too hard about it. I will see you in the next video. 5. The Nut Graf: The lead is the way in. You grab the reader's attention. You've got them caring about you and listening to you. Now, you need to tell them what the story is about and that's called the Nut Graf. Again, I have no idea why graf is spelled that way, it just is. I'm going to read now from habitus piece. The reason is a little known facet of American immigration policy. When American companies hire foreign born, high-skilled workers like my husband, their spouses need a special visa. The H-4 EAD in order to work. Such a visa has existed since 2015, but on February 20th, the Trump administration officially proposed cancel it. In anticipation of this draft rule change, employers have been reluctant to hire spouses like me because we may soon be forced to quit our jobs. The most frustrating part is that I had experience and skills that Texas employers need. You can see that this is a pretty esoteric and complicated issue. It's a very particular visa. Because she brought us in with that lead, she was able to get us to understand first why this is so important to her. Then, the Nut Graf, she just gets into the lead of all the different technicalities of what this piece it is. Then, you can see in the graf, after that, she starts to transition into what is really the main arguments she has here, which is that she has experience and skills that employers need. What she's done is she's taken this out of just like my personal experience that happened to me and she has taken it into the realm, a larger audience and talked about why this is important to not just her, not just your daughter. That's really what a good Nut Graf does. It transitions from the lead and into then the main argument of the story. It's call the Nut Graf because it's the nut of the story. It's the elevator pitch of the story. If someone is to say, what is this piece about? You would say, well, it's about the fact that the Trump administration has proposed to expire my visa, and I think it's really important that they don't because it's not just important for me, but for a lot of other people. In the lead you had a very personal story and in the Nutcracker expanding it to show that this is a bigger issue, that this is a more universal issue, is not just about you. That's really the key to Nut Graf is just bringing it into why the reader should care. I mean, of course you care about a mother who has to look at her disappointed daughter. You care about that and kind of a visceral way, the Nut Graf can be more international. Why is this important? Why is this newsworthy as is said in journalism? The next assignment is to write the Nut Graf. To start just by going back to rest sketch, think about what the main idea of your piece is. This is really the place where you can expand your story. You're thinking about your personal experience, but now you want to think about how it's more universal and what is the central issue that you're really talking about. Again, you're not just talking about hearing being a jerk or that you're being late for lunch. You're talking about the modern work place. That's really what the Nut Graf will achieve for you. This is bringing the personal into the universal. The Nut Graf doesn't necessarily have to be full facts and figures like this. It's really just the moment that you are connecting to a more universal experience. For example, in the Modern Love that I wrote, that ended up becoming a book. I talked about a very particular moment when my now husband asked me how long it had been since I've had a relationship. I didn't want to answer this question. But, later I expand into just my meditation on that question and why people are asked that question. It doesn't have to just be a lot of statistics and a very particular capital I issue you're talking about. You just want to think about. Where is the universal experience in my personal experience? What do you pulling out of that, that connects with everybody? This is a time to step back. You've brainstormed your leads about moments that the issue you're writing about really resonated with you. This is a time to think about, this happened to me and this was really meaningful to me. How does this connect with others? How does this connect with things that have happened to other people? What does this say about our culture? What does this say about our society? Because there's a reason why you selected those leads is, there is a reason why this resonated with you. Here's where you're breaking down. What am I getting at here? Another way to think of the Nut Graf, it's the heart of the essay. Once you figure that out, and then you can just get really into the nitty-gritty of all of your great, amazing arguments to get a good lead and a good Nut Graf. You're more than halfway there, because that's really the harder part is just focusing and figuring out what is the thing that I really care about, what am I trying to say? What, again, what do I want other people to understand? Once you have your lead and your Nut Graf, you're ready to get into the nuts and bolts of really crafting your argument, which is what we're gonna do in the next video. Before we go, check out the piece that I wrote, Why I Love political canvassing for the Washington Post. It's a longer piece and it's much more anecdotal. The use of facts is a lot more sparing. Just take a look at more expansive and looser argumentative essay and you can get that sense as well. 6. The Argument: So now that you've got your need and your nut graf, it's time to really build your case. There's a lot of different ways you can do that. We're going to go through them all, but there's new statistics and facts. You can use more personal anecdotes which I encourage. Then you might even have a quote or something else from another person or other source. We're just going to go through each of those and talk about the pros and cons of each one. Statistics and facts. Obviously in a lot of bits and pieces including [inaudible] piece, you'll see that she cites a lot of different resources to bolster her case. This is really great because again, it shows that this is not just her personal little issue. She has a lot of economic data that shows that preventing her from working is actually harmful to the Texas economies. She's contracting that argument that somehow she would be taking away someone's job. She has a lot of really solid research that shows that that isn't true. One thing that's also really important to know when you are looking for statistics and facts, is you want to make sure you are quoting from reliable sources, that you're citing reliable sources. Some good examples of reliable sources are universities, government agencies. Another thing that I like to often do is look at the newspaper, look at major news outlets, CNN, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post. The statistics and other facts are really great for bringing authority to your piece but you want to use them sparingly, because you don't want to just have a catalog of facts. It's going to blur in the reader's minds. It's not going to resonate. Just really be thoughtful about which statistics you pick. [inaudible] really has, she has very particular information about people who have her visa and the kinds of skills they have and what they bring to the economy. That's really great. She also talks about the fact that most H4 EAD holders are women. Which is really interesting point and gets back to her lead talking about this moment with her daughter. Use statistics, but use them wisely, quote from reliable sources, and use them sparingly. Here's a really easy way to find out if the source you're quoting is reliable. Google it, it takes two seconds. Just see, does anyone else quote the source? If it's only someone from a very particular partisan group, you might want to avoid that. It might be fine. But if you see that this source has been quoted or cited by multiple major news outlets or by government agencies or universities, then you're probably working with a good source. You can also build your case by using more personal anecdotes. If you using your personal experience and the body of the essay is great. It helps round the piece more. It gives you a relief from, especially if you have a lot of facts and figures, it gives you kind of a relief and a moment where your reconnecting with you as the author. But we don't need your whole life story. Just really thinking about what does the anecdote is doing? What is the job of this anecdote? In this course, we are working on 600 word essays. As you can see, [inaudible] was really focused and refined and that's one reason why the Houston Chronicle was happy to pick it up and run it. Writing a persuasive essay in general, it doesn't have to be 600 words, of course, it also doesn't have to be quite so specifically issue oriented, if you want to write a piece that just explores your personal experience, but also brings it into a more universal realm, there's a lot of ways to do it. I thought I'd just share a piece that I published in The Washington Post recently. It's about canvassing, which is something I really like to do and my original intent in the piece and with the stated intent is to talk about as the pieces called 'Why I Love political canvassing.'' But it gets into later a different issue. It maybe the issue that I really more interested in exploring. The moment before mocking is the hardest part. Standing on a neighbor's stoop, I double-check the name and age on my Canvas sheet? Tara, 29, and give three firm taps, hoping they're loud enough to you heard from the upstairs. But don't meet the zone like the FBI. As I wait, I restart my literature. A very sure picturing the dapper, necktie-wearing candidate and the promise that he'll fight for you. When no one comes to the door, usually the case, it's a relief. With any luck, I'll blow through this list and spend the rest of Saturday at the lake. When the door does open, I see myself reflected in the occupants eyes. A strange woman with a clipboard and the faintly desperate smile of a religious evangelists. But this is also the moment when things get easy. On a recent Saturday, the weather preempted my plans to go kayaking. I decided to Canvas for congressional candidate from my swing district. The campaign office gave me a list and individuals who sided with the party, with my party in the presidential elections, but didn't vote in the primaries. Tara, the first person I met that day, opened her door about 15 degrees. The candidate's name wasn't familiar to her, so I showed her a brochure picturing a man with constituents. I explained that he wants to go to Washington so we can defeat the agenda of the other party, which we think is bad for America. That got our attention. She agreed that the other party is bad for America. You'll vote November. Absolutely, she said with the thumbs up. This is a very personal story of just my experience knocking on a person's door. It might seem like I'm just talking about myself, but what I'm really trying to do is expand it to talk about this experience of canvassing. Because I've talked to a lot of people who've done this and they have had very similar experiences. This is something that can also be really helpful to you in your research. If as you are exploring your different anecdotes and your different life experiences that you want to write about, talk to other people about them, see that, has this happened to you? What was your experience of this? A lot of times you'll find that they have shared this experience and so that kind of can bolster your case for it. But they might also say, well, no, it was really quite like that for me. That can also trigger a lot of interesting ideas. As you are working on your piece, don't just make it about you. That's part of, that's really the theme of this video, is finding ways to make it about everybody or to include a lot of people in it, because that's really what we read for, is to connect with others and see both our own experiences and others, but also to learn about something different, but in a way that we connect with them on a really personal level. In my lead, I took you on this personal journey of knocking on one person's store and then here is how I handle the nut of the story. I've been a volunteer canvasser since 2004, including since with six different candidates and local races, primaries and presidential contests and three states. It doesn't always go this well. Some people shoo you away immediately. They are on the phone, starting dinner, about to pick up the kids. They explain as they take your pamphlet to shut the door. Other times they'll endure your spiel with a weary distance stare, like you're a traffic light. Occasionally, you'll receive open hostility, like the man in 2016 who told me to get off his property. As if I was planning to step a lawn chair and crack open a beer. But this last scenario happens rarely, especially in 2018. One of the biggest misunderstandings about canvassing is that it's about changing people's minds or swaying that thin slice of college-educated suburbanites swing voters whose mood, cable-news analysts parse with surgical precision But in 2016, half the country didn't vote. The main goal is not to get people to switch sides, but to compel those sympathetic to your candidate to show up. This is the nut on the piece, and in it, I do two things. First, I establish my authority. In the lead, I talk about a very specific thing that happened and one interaction with one person. In the nut graf, I explain that this is something that I've been doing for a long time and have had a lot of different experiences. The other thing I do is I very sneakily research in a fact. Half the country didn't vote in 2016. Considering that was such a consequential elections, a little bit of a surprise. It's a very anecdotal Pinterest is a lot more meandering during than [inaudible] piece. But I'm still giving it some gravitas with just a couple of very particular facts. What I asked you to think about before the next segment is just enjoy this process and just explore, and let yourself be messy. Let it go all over the place. It can be frustrating sometimes, but it gets messy because you think, I thought I was writing a piece on how to bake a cake and not I've realized about my relationship with my sister. Sometimes a little bit frustrating? But that's actually, that's the beauty of it. That's because that's what you're really writing about. You're really writing about your relationship with your sister. That's actually the part that's going to be interesting to the reader. It's frustrating and time consuming as it can be. Just have fun with it and let yourself be messy. In this essay, I've moved from this small anecdote to then something that I'm overtly advocating for to some larger ideas about my thoughts on the culture. When you go on a journey like that, when you can take the reader on a journey like that, that enables you to come up with an ending that resonate to the reader, but isn't just a restating of your main idea. You don't want to just end it with like, and in conclusion, political canvassing is fun. You don't want it to end like that. You want it to come, you want to end it on a larger and higher note. It will help you, if you can take the reader on that journey to write a kicker, and that is next. 7. The Kicker: I find kickers to be really one of the most difficult parts of writing an essay. Sometimes they come to you, more often than not they can be a bit of a struggle. The kicker is the ending of the essay. It's not necessarily a conclusion, it really shouldn't be a conclusion, it's just the thought that you are leaving them with. There are different ways to do a kicker. If you're writing a really straightforward piece that is advocating for something, it could just end on a call to action. That's why I think we should all support the Mayor's plan. It could be as simple as that. Another way to end the piece is the way that Havata [phonetic] does, where she brings it back to that moment with her daughter. I am just going to read that now. "On a recent morning, I was getting my daughter up and dressed when she said, "Why do I have to go to school?" I told her she needs to work hard and aim high because she can be anything she wants to be in this world. I want her to know deep down this is true. I want her to look at me and see a confident professional, a woman I once was and who I'd like to be again." Again, it's a callback. We started with her daughter and now we're ending with her daughter and this really lovely mother-daughter exchange. It's not restating what she said in the beginning. She's ending it on a more hopeful note, even though I found it quite devastating that the daughter says, "Why do I have to go to school?" But Havata wanted to really end it on a really positive note. I think that was a really effective way to end her piece. My favorite way to end a piece is to present an idea that was a twist on what I'd been originally talking about, but not exactly that. "On that Saturday, it took me three hours to knock on 24 doors and speak with six people. That might seem like a questionable return on investment, but one of those people was a not-yet-registered 18-year-old Latina, who was delighted when I gave her a voter-registration form. A few weeks later, I spoke with a 78 year-old woman, who had doubts about My Guy until we started talking about health-care issue, and she recalled a broken promise the Other Guy made to a constituent. These conversations are worth several thousand retweets." I have had some information in there about the effectiveness of political canvassing and does the other factoid. "In these days of personal brands, it's liberating to present yourself to the world simply as a concerned citizen. The neighbor standing under her doorway doesn't know how many followers you have or what your company's net revenue is or what schools your kid got into. In that moment, you're just someone who cares and you're begging that they care too. You're usually right." In the piece, I moved from advocating for political canvassing to saying that people really are probably not as that in real life, as you might think through the writing process and through thinking about this. The thing I realized about canvassing was that it wasn't just about meeting my neighbors or advocating for political cause, it was the fact that so often we define ourselves by who we are, I am so and so is mother, I have this job, I have these many Twitter followers. So I really wanted to end on what I learned from canvassing about myself and just the idea of being a neighbor and being nothing more than that. Just presenting myself as simply a concerned citizen and then connecting with my neighbor on that. I think a good kicker happens. It's part of the natural writing process. You wouldn't know how it ends in the beginning. In the beginning, you know what you're trying to say and what's important to you, but I think the kicker, what it works is the end result of all that ruminating, all that editing and rewriting and thinking where again, you get yourself to a different place than you were in the beginning and where you yourself have gone on a journey, and now you can take the reader on that journey as well, and that's I think what makes it a satisfying kicker. Though maybe you're going to get your kicker on the first draft. Maybe it will be something that's in your wrent [phonetic]. Maybe you didn't know that was a kicker when you are writing it and then you realize you're coming back to it again, writing many drafts and really thinking about this deeply will get you there. However, you get there, it's so hard to write a kicker. It's so hard writing a good kicker that I encourage you, however, you get there is great, but I personally find that they work the best when I didn't know what the kicker was when I started, I don't think I've ever really known the kicker when I started, although probably I'd be a much more efficient writer if I did. The writing assignment is to write the kicker. This could be, again, a very straightforward call to action. It could be a callback to whatever happened in your opening anecdote or a later anecdote. Those are made for really satisfying kickers or just, in some way, a different twist on what this essay has been about. If you can't get the kicker, if you're just really pulling your hair out and it's just not working, don't worry. Oftentimes the kicker happens after several drafts, or sometimes the kicker happens when you put it down for a day or a week. Give it a shot, but don't worry too much if you just can't get it. The reading assignment is my essay, Sometimes, It's Not You, or the Math. This is an essay that has no facts and figures in it. This is also what I refer to as my number one hit single. It is one of the most popular New York Times Modern Love columns ever, and it's what my book was based on. I should mention it. Writing this essay has changed my life, so I like to share it. 8. Editing: The assignment here was to write a 600 word piece. I like 600 words because it's really great to practice a skill of being short and concise. But if your piece comes out longer and you like it, then let it be that way. Don't worry about it too much. If you're interested in pitching specifically a newspaper app head, then I would strongly recommend that you leave it at 600 words. Suggest some really simple editing tips. One thing I find really useful is to read your piece out loud. I do this before, absolutely. Everything I write, whether it's a corporate job I'm doing or a piece of journalism or a book review or a personal essay. When you read the piece out loud, often times, awkward or clunky phrases just jumped right out of you. You also catch a lot of typos that way. I'm not sure why, but so that's number 1. Read it out loud. Especially in the initial stages after I've written a rough draft, I really like print out my piece. Because then I can think more holistically about the piece and I know I can move this paragraph here or put that there. When I don't print things out, what often happens to me is I get into the reads of rewriting sentences. That can be a problem because at a certain point, you just want to be able to figure out how things work in order and whether your argument over all works and you don't really want to be worrying so much about spelling or is this capitalized or do I have a nicer image for this? That's a later part of it. I really recommend printing and editing on paper. It's also really useful to get rid of meaningless phrases or clutter any sentence or phrase that doesn't actually present any information. It goes without saying. If it goes without saying don't say it. Obviously, of course, little things like that, they're just good to get rid of. Really the key thing is, does this phrase provide any actual information and if it isn't providing information, that's a good thing to cut. I also really like to focus my writing on nouns and verbs. In particular, verbs. The verb is the heart of the sentence, almost like the nut graph of the sentence. It's where the action is and when things have action, they're just inherently more interesting to read. That's why it's important to write in the active voice and not the passive voice. Not; the dog was walked by me, but I walk the dog. You want your brain to have that strong impacts. So that's another thing to do when you're going through an edit is look to see if you're putting things in the passive voice. Anything that you'd say something was done by something. Yeah, you want to flip that around. I also really like nouns because nouns have images attached to them. You can say Elizabeth Taylor was beautiful. But I think it's a stronger image to say Elizabeth Taylor had violet eyes. You want to really think in terms of, is there of actions and images, not these descriptor words like beautiful or funny or smart. It's not that you can't have them in there, but just really keep them to a minimum. Because what you just want to do, you want to be putting a picture in the reader's mind and you want to be showing just a dynamic action. Nouns and verbs. You started out, with just this word vomit and then the editing process is gradually refining and refining and figuring out do I need this? Does this relate back to that nut paragraph? Is this advancing the idea that I want to advance? If It doesn't, maybe it's a great piece of writing, but maybe that's just for another essay. You want to really think about your nut graph, and what is that central argument that you are advancing? What do you want the reader to take away from it? In my canvassing essay, I wanted people to take away the idea that canvassing is actually a lot more fun and fulfilling that you think. But I also had that more philosophical idea at the end too. That everything in the essay needed to really do one of those two things. I didn't want to get into the weeds of say my candidates position on healthcare. That's too much. Maybe it's another essay though, so you can always have a separate file of great stuff that you think is so wonderful and you work so hard on, but it's just not right for this essay. Then just one final thought on editing. Sometimes the best editing happens in your sleep, in your head. When you've put the piece away and you've just walked away from it? I can't tell you how many times I was just tearing my hair out and so frustrated with the piece. All I really needed to do was put it down and getting good night's sleep. I also find that working something right in the morning. I don't know why the thing I can't do at four o'clock, somehow at eight o'clock in the morning. It's right there. The kicker. I found my kicker. That's the hing that often happens much later. Often I find in the morning. If you're really getting sick of it and frustrated, just stop. 9. Pitching & Final Thoughts: Now you've written your 600-word essay, and if you decide you'd like to pitch it, there are a number of different outlets that you can try and it's just sometimes going to type, even if it doesn't get in the paper. Sometimes you get a nice note from another and saying, hey, this isn't quite right, but maybe try something else. In this video, I want to just go through some of the basics, of pitching. The first thing you want to do, is just figure out what publication, your piece might be right for. If you wrote about playground safety in your hometown, then your local newspaper would probably be a good source. If you are a business person, who wrote a piece about, why you think a new, regulation or tax is not a good idea. You might write for a local business journal. There's a lot of different openings and there's a lot for, first person pieces by people who have particular expertise, in one area, and again, expertise could mean you're an accountant, who is talking about a new accounting regulation. But it could also be, you are concerned citizen who has something to say. The first thing you want to ask is, where am I going to place it? Is this for a newspaper? Is it for a trade journal? Is it for a blog? Is this a letter to the editor? Think about, who's going to read this? Who are you trying to reach? That's another really important question to ask. Once you've figured out where you want to put your piece is really important to read the submission guidelines. Sounds like a basic thing, but a lot of people don't do it, and the thing that's great about a lot of places, like the Dallas Morning News, which I've linked to. They not only tell you things like, include your picture, or include an email address where people can write you. They have a lot of very specific guidelines, but they also provide a lot more general guidelines, just about what they are looking for in a piece. That can be really helpful, and you'd dual checklist like, well, do I meet these guidelines? A lot of newspapers do that. When you pitch, it's really important to, pitch to the right person. If you haven't had the right publication, but then you need to send it to the right person. The guidelines will usually give you, an email address to send your piece to. In the Dallas Morning News, I believe his viewpoints, at Dallas Morning You definitely want to send it to them. But I also like to go through, what's called the masthead of the newspaper, and look to find out who is the actual editor of the opinion column. I will pitch the opinion editor and then also see viewpoints at Dallas Morning News. That's really good. If you can, send it to a person, just Dear Bob, and you don't have to go into like, I love the Dallas Morning News, I read every morning to buy coffee. You don't have to do that, send it to a person because frankly, editors are pretty overwhelming and a lot of submissions, and you'll just have a better chance, getting it in front of an editor. If it's addressed to a human being, and not just an anonymous email address. African newspaper story, I usually wait about three days, before following up with the editor and just a quick like. What I'll do is, I'll forward the original email, with just a different little short David offices like, hey, any interests? A lot of times, music for guidelines, will tell you, if you haven't heard from us in X amount of time, you can move on, with a magazine. I might get a little bit longer, but the bottom line is, once you pinch it, do, I usually do one follow-up. If they say no or they don't take it, just move on. That is just how it works. You can't get too worried about one editor not liking it. It's really a lot like dating. Only one person has to love it and you get the rejection or the no reply, that happens, just move on to the next place. You might decide that, upright and reflection. Maybe this piece doesn't need work. Maybe the editor gives you some good advice. You, can consider that I had a friend once who got very upset about being a piece being rejected, and she asked if I should take the editors advice, explain what he thought was wrong with the piece, and I said, take his advice if you think it's good and if it resonates with you. But if it doesn't, move on because, you're not trying to sell it to him. He said no. Just focus on the editor who will say yes, and just in general, if you don't place it, it's okay, It's all just practice and it's all just fun, and I think that, the sending a piece out, it's a great way to just feel like you're in the game, and for me, even when I get a no, I just like the fact that I have being out there. I still enjoy that ever thought that's odd, but that's how it is. Congratulations, you have made it to the end of the course. Thank you so much, for sharing this with me and for being on this journey. I hope you really enjoy your experience writing this piece and please do post to the skill, share a page, so that you can share your experience, with everybody and we can all learn from you.