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Literary Panjandrum
Monday, September 25, 2006   |    How To

Op-Ed Recipe

by David Martin

The following ingredients make one serving of old-fashioned newspaper opinion column or two shorter helpings of op-ed pieces:


- three provocative statements (may substitute with clever double entendres)
- one main point
- subsidiary points (optional)
- filler
- evidence (where available)
- one or more studies
- one set of statistics
- one personal experience
- dash of arrogance


Preheat tone to medium outrage.

Combine one provocative statement with main point in opening paragraph and, if desired, mix in one or more subsidiary points.

Where minimum column length is greater than 700 words, add filler comprising stale jokes, hoary old aphorisms or recent semi-amusing anecdotes.

In separate paragraph, fold in evidence. Depending on seasonal and/or regional availability, combine one or more studies, a set of statistics and one personal experience. Where necessary, cook the numbers separately.

(If studies or statistics are out of season or otherwise unavailable, stir in one or more expert quotes. Alternatively, simply include reference to “some experts” or, if your main point is a bit weak, to “most experts.”)

Using your personal logic system, sprinkle evidence over main point and any subsidiary points until all opposing views are obscured. If you don’t own a logic system, cover your points with a glaze of specious arguments or a coating of ‘ad hominem’ attacks.

Spread out resulting mixture in one succinct paragraph. Be sure to blend your evidence as much as possible to allow for highlighting and reiteration of main point. Tone should now be at maximum outrage.

Add second provocative statement and stir in extraneous arguments as required to fill out column. If desired, create a small counter-argument. Twist, spin, cut, and dissect into small pieces and then discard.

Garnish with dash of arrogance and third provocative statement and cook for 24 hours. Serves a readership of from 10 to 500,000 and should generally yield several strongly worded letters to the editor.

David Martin is a bureaucrat with the Canadian federal government but also does productive work by writing humor on the side. He is the author of the political satire collection entitled My Friend W (Arriviste Press, Boston) and blogs (who doesn’t?) at