I rarely write opinion posts because they are the blogging equivalent of smoking weed. Like weed, they seem harmless, but after a while, they make you lazy, dumb, and boring.
The real problem is that it takes a great deal of skill to write a credible and logical opinion post.
Genuine opinion posts are constructed with extreme care and attention to detail. Like a star litigator, opinion writers tie solid logic, penetrating insight, and chutzpah together to deliver a belief-changing perspective. Anything less is just an adult temper tantrum.
Now, I happen to love the 2% of opinion posts that are written by true masters of the art. These writers are soaked in expertise, real-world experience, impeccable logic, and fascinating insights.
In my experience, it seems like these bloggers write facts first and opinions last. If you check their archives, you’ll find that the majority of their posts are practical-expertise honing pieces; they’ve only recently started writing opinions. It took them a while to get a handle on their topic. Excellent.
If you feel compelled to write an opinion post, here are some of the more irritating sins. Use this checklist to make sure you don’t end up looking like an idiot or, worse, contributing to the echo chamber.
Arguing the Obvious
An example: “Twitter isn’t the end-all of social media.”
This is a safe and apparent proclamation that will be almost always true. You can substitute Twitter for any noun, and you’ll have a winner. You get no cool points for this. It’s especially sickening when the author prances around with the obvious as if they are a thought leader.
Highlighting the Ridiculous Extreme
I often say that modeling top performers is a great strategy.
Within 24 hours, like clockwork, someone will assert that slavishly copying top performers is a horrible strategy. That’s true, but that’s not what I said. Embellishing someone else’s premise to make your point doesn’t make any sense. If you can’t argue the merits of the thought as it is, then you probably shouldn’t write anything at all.
Ad Hominem Arguments
Ad hominem arguments are a logical slip-up in which one attacks the person and not the idea.
Chris Brogan gets this a lot. People attack his motives without analyzing the merit of his ideas. Ad hominem arguments are hard to resist, because they often get a reaction and start a fight, thereby increasing traffic. However, in the end, you just look like a bone-headed jackass. That’s not an ad hominem argument – just a fact.
Focus Group of One / Overgeneralization
My favorite. Basically, the opinion blogger makes a proclamation based on narrow personal experience.
“Google Plus sucks because it only allows 5,000 people in a circle.”
“Starbucks sucks, because it doesn’t have chocolate chai latte,” and other nonsense.
You are entitled to your opinion, but be careful about banking on its ‘universal’ application.
The Thought Follower
The Google Plus conversation has put the spotlight on the latest opinion post sin – being a thought follower. Thought followers love to bash the thought leaders.
Their entire premise is based on a simplistic and not particularly original notion – the thought leader could be wrong. Now, they would be interesting if they said that the prevailing wisdom was wrong and made their case.
However, 99% of thought followers really agree with the thought leaders. They just wanted a contrary lead paragraph to grab eyeballs. Simply saying that Google Plus pundits are short sighted because they are too hasty in proclaiming Pluses benefits isn’t an original argument. It’s obvious and boring. Try again.
If the Shoe Fits Analysis
This could also be called the “Opinion Drive-by.” In this opinion post, the writer implicates an individual or group in wrongdoing. They paint a horrible picture of their motives and actions. The crimes are so socially heinous that the reader immediately swears off the behavior and rushes to comment and separate themselves from the wrongdoers. Disgusting.
The writer has disingenuously created a straw man, a boogie man that can’t defend himself. They can build this straw man into the perfect villain without repercussions. With their straw man built, they piously hand down their opinions without threat of reprisal. What makes this opinion sin so abhorrent is that if you protest, you are assumed to be the guilty party. “If the shoe fits….”
Call a rant a rant. Don’t try to pass off an ill-conceived rant as opinion piece. I often use the Washington Post’s Op-Ed section as a litmus test. If my opinion post could live there, then I post it to the blog. As you can see, not many posts carry that authority. Many times, you’ll be better off educating your reader on “how to” versus arguing the negative.
Am I off base here? Have you been tempted by the rant masquerading as an opinion post?