Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Avoid "I think" in op-ed columns

The "op-ed" (opinion-editorial) pages of newspapers are just that. They are where we turn to read the opinions of columnists, with whom we are free to agree or disagree.
So it strikes me as strange when an op-ed writer uses the words, "I think...."
For example, Bob Herbert in The New York Times wrote, "I think an increase in the minimum wage is a good idea...."
An op-ed writer is supposed to state his or her opinion, so -- for starters -- the words "I think" are redundant. We know it's what he thinks. It's his column!
But more than that, writing "I think" weakens the statement. Why shouldn't Herbert just say "An increase in the minimum wage is good idea." Or better, ". . .is good for America." Period. If you disagree, go read Cal Thomas, who's still angry that they enacted those pesky child labor laws!
Speechwriters are taught that "I think" weakens a speech, especially when it's a CEO leading a huge corporation. It makes the speaker sound as if he or she is not sure.
Scout out some columns for "I think"s. Then imagine if the column would be better without them.

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