Writing Tips - News Releases, Op-Eds, Letters, and More

Some Tips for Taking Action

  • Act on issues, not problems.

    As academics, we're trained to think about the "big picture"--to analyze at high levels of abstraction and make broad connections. But it's hard to take action on "big issues."

    Instead, think smaller. Cut issues from problems. An issue is something manageable, a smaller piece of a bigger problem, that you can address through one action or a series of actions.

    Misguided perceptions of writers and writing is a problem.

    Unfair placement tests is an issue.

    Problematic assumptions about students' abilities is a problem.

    Curriculum in a basic writing courses is an issue.

    Plagiarism policy is an issue.

    Imposition of curriculum is an issue.

    Assessment methods is an issue.

    Issues are things you can develop immediate strategies to affect.

  • Change, don't negate, the frame...
    or Affirm and turn.

    Frames are conceptual schema through which people make sense of what they see. Narratives are formed through frames, and things that are outside of the frame seem outlandish, unrealistic, or impossible.

    To change the conversation about writing and writers, we need to change the frame. Linguist George Lakoff reminds us: if you only negate a frame -- that is, you say, "X is not the case!" you reinforce the frame of "X" because you are not putting another, more valid, frame in X's place.

    For example:

    The charge: "Students plagiarize all the time, and the internet only makes it easier for them to do it."

    Reinforcing the frame: "Some students may plagiarize, but . . .
    "Students don't actually plagiarize . . .

    Changing the frame: "It's true that students have access to more information and can access that information more quickly than ever before [affirm]. That's why, in our writing classes, we . . . [turn].

    Affirm and turn.

  • Take advantage of terrific available resources

  • The SPIN project has terrific tutorials on
    developing relationships with reporters and writing news releases. Their piece American Opportunity: A Communications Toolkit has great tips on writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces.

    FAIR's Media Activist Kit has information on everything from detecting bias to writing op-ed pieces and letters to the editor.

    Petition Online is an easy way to create on-line petitions.