A Guide to Writing Commentary People Want to Read

My step-by-step method that drives people to finish reading your stories

Photo by Sarah Boudreau on Unsplash

Commentary writing prints money if you are passionate about your opinions! Nothing fires me up to write a story more than opening the newspaper and reading a story about government cutting services for special needs kids or shutting down homeless shelters.

My commentary writing receives the most reading time of my Medium stories! With the new Medium Partner Program (MPP) emphasizing reading time instead of claps. It is more important than ever to get readers to finish your stories to maximize your Medium income.

In recent years, the mainstream media has transitioned from straight news to commentary. They still include the basics of Who, What, Where, When, and How. But more and more journalists include a political slant.

Some people object to the news having a bias. But really, did anyone watch Fox News twenty years ago think it did not have a bias towards Republicans? I think not. We can say the same about MSNBC. It had a liberal bias from its inception.

A Polemicist and Contrarian

There are different ways to write a commentary. You can slant left or right or centrist. However, there is another way to write a commentary to make people think. Here’s how I do it.In my commentary writing, I have a distinct voice. I view myself as a Polemicist and Contrarian. Do not worry, I will explain what those terms mean.

According to the Collins dictionary, a polemicist is:“someone who is skilled at arguing very strongly for or against a belief or opinion”

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a contrarian is:“someone such as a writer or politician who likes to disagree with other people and express opinions that are unpopular”

The Quintessential Mind says:“A contrarian isn’t one who always objects — that’s a conformist of a different sort. A contrarian reasons independently, from the ground up, and resists pressure to conform.”

Christopher Hitchens defines living a contrarian life as a radical life. I agree with Hitchens. It is definitely a harder life when every commentary I have does not conform to a specific political ideology.

Brexit Commentary Story

I wrote a story about how the Brexit vote needs to be respected even though I do not agree with the UK leaving the European Union (EU). It is a horrible idea and has massive financial consequences. But, it was a democratic vote with the majority voting to leave the EU.

If someone respects democracy, which is the will of the people. The UK voted to leave the EU and the politicians should complete Brexit. I posted it in a UK Facebook group and got kicked out by one moderator because I was “pro-Brexit” even though I am not. I connected the vote all the way back to the Chartists who were the first to petition successfully the government for non-landowning men to vote. Here’s the link if you want to read it.

Rarely Argue for Status Quo

I rarely argue for the status quo unless I am arguing against changing a policy. No one cares if I like grass being green. If someone is into lawn care, what they care about is how long to cut the grass and what fertilizer to use. That is where you find differing opinions.

Controversy sells in commentary writing. I do not shy away from controversy. Recently, I wrote a story on Period Poverty. Scotland became the first country in the world to approve sanitary products as paid for through the health system. Most guys would shy away from writing about women’s menstruation. However, I used a taboo topic to address poverty issues. My readers appreciate that I do not hold back.

My Method

Commentary writing is easier than you think. Pick an issue you care about. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Create two columns entitled “For” and “Against.”

Write every point you can think of. The reason to write both sides is you can sometimes turn an argument against what you are arguing for upside down and make it another point for your side. If you know the arguments against your side, you can develop better arguments against them.

After you have your list, turn each argument “For” into a heading. Try to come up with an example to help back up your points and start writing. If it is something you are passionate about, it will be easy to write as your subconscious spills out onto the page. The next thing you know, you have 800 words and the framework for a successful commentary.

Keep in mind, you need to have thick skin to write a commentary. People will disagree with you and say very nasty things against you on social media and in the comments. I do not care.

My Twitter Header

“Before you ask yourself why some people hate you, ask yourself why you give a damn.”

Here is a funny response to a story from some far-right nut job:

Practice Steps

  1. Read a newspaper or news website
  2. Find a story which you strongly disagree with
  3. Use a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. Put “For” on the left side and “Against” on the right side
  4. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Write every “For” and “Against” argument you can think of. Don’t worry about fully developing each argument, just get some ideas down on the paper.
  5. Take the “For” arguments and make them the headings for the first draft
  6. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Expand each “For” argument into at least a paragraph and if possible an example to back up your argument.
  7. Write the introduction and conclusion.
  8. Edit and rewrite the story until you are happy with it
  9. Post it and let the world know your opinion

What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing? Post in the comments below.


Keep in touch!

Christopher Oldcorn is a writer curious about the world. Published over 150 stories in 20+ publications. Recognized as a Top Writer in Government, Politics, Books, Climate Change, Productivity, Creativity, & Writing.

You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

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