Opinion Essay


(Updated on June 20, 2018 by Michelle Williams)

An opinion essay is a composition that presents the writer's individual ideas about a certain subject and then attempts to explain or defend those ideas against those who have differing opinions.  Opinion essays therefore have two purposes: to inform the reader about the writer's opinion, and to persuade the reader of the validity or even the superiority of that opinion.  Because opinion essays have these two aims, they shouldn't be considered to fall in the genre of expository (or informative) essays.  Though much of an opinion essay will be focused on informing the reader, the real purpose of presenting an opinion in a report is to persuade the reader of why that opinion is a good one, or even why that opinion is a better one than another opinion.  Therefore, opinion essays are more like persuasive essays than they're like expository essays.

Opinion EssayBecause opinions are personal and subjective, one of the primary tasks of an opinion essay writer is to make the writer's opinion seem grounded in more than just subjectivity.  This will lend both the writer and the opinion credibility.  For instance, if the opinion essay is on the writer's belief that home schooling is inferior to regular schooling, the writer would need to give reasons for his/her opinion other than his/her personal beliefs or anecdotal experience.  Perhaps the writer was home schooled, and had a negative experience.  This personal information would be good to include, because it would suggest the writer's intimate knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of home schooling, but it wouldn't be enough to persuade readers who believe home schooling is better than regular schooling.  Those readers have their own strong opinions.  The writer would need to persuade those readers by including authoritative information from outside sources, such as education researchers.  This way, the opinion essay would be more than a personal rant, and would engage with the outside world.

Opinion reports should always indicate why the writer of the report has the opinion he/she does.  This is part of the credibility process.  If the reader doesn't know why the writer of the home schooling essay has such a strong opinion about home schooling, the reader may assume that the writer owns a school and is trying to persuade parents that would have home schooled their children that instead they should enroll their children in a school like the one the writer owns.  Therefore, though the opinion report should never focus exclusively on the writer's own experiences and ideas without incorporating the ideas of others, the opinion must always be contextualized in the writer's life so that the reader understands the reasons for the writer's opinion.

Opinion reports should also always strive to address opinions that are contrary to the ones they express.  This should be done in a gracious but firm manner.  Acknowledging the reasons why others hold their own opinions demonstrates that the writer understands the broader picture and is aware that others disagree with him and, more importantly, is aware why.

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