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At any time, you may be asked to write an essay based on a personal opinion on a controversial topic. Depending on your purpose, your essay can be as long as you want it to be - a short letter to an editor, half a speech, or even a long research paper. However, each piece should contain a few key steps and elements. Here's a useful guide on how to write an opinion essay.

Research the topic

To write an effective essay, you must first understand your topic. Your personal opinion should be well-founded and developed, but it doesn't stop there. Look for popular counterarguments as well - it's important to understand the other side in order to truly understand what you're arguing for or against.

Identify popular arguments

It is likely that you are writing about a controversial topic that has already been debated. Analyze the arguments that have been made before and see how they align with your opinion. How is your opinion similar or different from those of previous debaters? Has anything changed between this time and the time when others wrote about this topic? If not, what does the lack of change mean?

Look at the essay on school uniforms:

Against uniforms: "A common complaint from students is that uniforms restrict their freedom of expression."

For uniforms: "Some students feel that uniforms hinder their ability to express themselves, while others feel that uniforms reduce the pressure on them to conform to certain standards of how they should be perceived by their peers."

Use a transition statement

In the text of an opinion, transition statements show how your opinion adds to arguments already made, and can also show that these earlier statements are incomplete or incorrect. Follow this statement with a statement expressing your own opinion:

Against uniforms: "While I agree that rules inhibit the expression of individuality, I think the biggest problem is the financial burden of uniforms."

For uniforms: "There are concerns about the financial burden of having to wear uniforms, but the administration has developed a program for students who need help."

Keep the tone

"Many students come from low-income families and simply cannot afford to buy new clothes that match the principal's fashion."

There is a sour note in this statement. You may be passionate about your opinion, but sarcastic and mocking language only weakens your argument by making you look unprofessional. This says enough:

"Many students come from low-income families and simply cannot afford to buy so many new clothes."

Use evidence to support your point of view

Even if you focus on your opinion in your essay, you need to back up your claims - statements based on facts always make more of an impact than mere opinions or vague comments. When researching a topic, look for information that will serve as reliable evidence of the "rightness" of your position. Then disseminate the facts through your position to reinforce your point of view.

Your supporting statements should be appropriate for the type of writing you are doing, such as general comments in a letter to the editor and reliable statistics in a scientific article. References from people involved in the issue can also add humanity to your argument.

Against uniforms: "The recent tax increase has already reduced the number of students.

Professional uniforms: "Some of my friends are happy to have uniforms because they don't have to worry about picking out their clothes every morning.