Writing an Opinion Essay

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At any point, you may find yourself having to write an essay that is based on your personal opinion about a controversial topic. Depending on your objective, your composition could be any length—a short letter to the editor, a medium-sized speech, or even a long research paper. But every piece should contain some basic steps and elements. This is how to write an opinion essay.

Research Your Topic

To write an effective opinion essay, you have to understand your topic inside and out. Your personal opinion should be informed and fully developed, but it doesn't stop there. Research popular counterclaims as well—in order to truly understand what you are arguing for or against, it is imperative that you understand the opposing side.

Acknowledge Popular Arguments

It is likely that you will be writing about a controversial topic that has been debated before. Look ​at the arguments made in the past and see how they fit in with your own opinion. How is your point of view similar to or different from those articulated by previous debaters? Has something changed between now and the time others were writing about it? If not, what does the lack of change mean?

Consider an opinion essay on the topic of school uniforms:

Against Uniforms: “A common complaint among students is that uniforms restrict their rights to freedom of expression."

For Uniforms: “While some students feel that uniforms hinder self-expression, others believe that they ease the pressure to uphold certain standards of appearance by their peers.”

Use a Transition Statement

In an opinion paper, transition statements show how your individual opinion adds to the already-made arguments; they can also suggest that those previous statements are incomplete or faulty. Follow up with a statement that expresses your opinion:

Against Uniforms: "While I agree that the regulations do hamper my ability to express my individualism, I think the economic burden that uniforms bring about is a bigger concern."

For Uniforms: “There's concern about the financial pressure that requiring uniforms could bring about, but the administration has developed a program for students needing assistance.”

Watch Your Tone

"Many students come from low-income families, and they simply don't have the resources to buy new clothing to suit the headmaster's fashion whims."

This statement contains a sour note. You may be passionate about your opinion, but sarcastic, derisive language only weakens your argument by making you sound unprofessional. This says enough:

"Many students come from low-income families, and they simply don't have the resources to buy so much new clothing."

Use Supporting Evidence to Validate Your Position

Although the essay is about your opinion, you have to back up your claims—factual statements will always be more impactful than pure opinion or vague comments. As you research your topic, look for information that will act as sound evidence for why your position is "right." Then, sprinkle factoids throughout your opinion paper to reinforce your point of view.

Your supporting statements should match the type of composition you're writing, e.g. general observations for a letter to the editor and credible statistics for a research paper. Anecdotes from individuals involved in the issue can also provide a human aspect to your argument.

Against Uniforms: "The recent increase in fees has already led to a decrease in enrollment."

For Uniforms: "Some of my friends are excited by the prospect of uniforms because they won't have to worry about choosing an outfit every morning."