Teaching opinion writing
Post Opinion and Post Bag can be the source of some very interesting reading lessons for it is here that you will find some of the liveliest writing in the Bangkok Post. This is especially true when they deal with topics your students care about, but sometimes they are also interesting
simply because they can be so hard-hitting. Here are some observations about both columns and
some suggestions for using them.
Post Opinion This is the editorial column of the Bangkok Post and it appears from Monday through Friday. It is the closest thing we have to an essay and anyone teaching essay writing will
find it to be an excellent resource. Although the language of Post Opinion can at times be rather
sophisticated, its style is quite straightforward. The main idea (the opinion) is easy to catch and
its placement and development are good models for students to follow.
We suggest that teachers who use Post Opinion introduce their students to the “one-
minute drill”, i.e., catching the editorial’s subject and opinion on that subject within one minute.
A quick look at the title, the first paragraph and the final paragraph should usually suffice although it
may be necessary to look at parts of the second paragraph and the paragraph immediately
preceding the conclusion as well. We also suggest that students skim through the remaining topic
sentences to confirm their initial determination. (See Opinion writing for more information.)
Once students have caught the writer’s opinions, it is very useful to help them consider the
evidence given in support. Normally, each paragraph contains one supporting idea. Sometimes
this is direct support, but sometimes the evidence given is used to attack an opposing idea. Make
sure the students notice the transitions between paragraphs and between sections of the writer’s
argument. These are usually clearly signalled.
We also suggest you spend some time with the choice of words found in Post Opinion.
You will notice that editorial writers are free to used very strong, very “loaded” language that
would be prohibited in news stories where writers are required to present information impartially.
It is usually relatively easy to find a news story directly related to the editorial, allowing direct
comparisons to be made.
Post Bag Letters to the editor can be even more lively than editorials, but they will require
considerably more effort before your students catch the main point. Since satire and sarcasm are
such regular features of Post Bag letters, inexperienced readers are prone to misinterpretation
until they learn to become more wary. Helping our readers recognise and appreciate satire is a
regular part of our fax programme.
We also suggest that readers follow particularly interesting controversies that erupt from
time to time, some of which last for weeks. We are particularly watchful for letters which answer
reader's complaints, especially if they are official responses from companies, embassies or
important organisations. Wherever possible, we also include the original complaint and we
suggest that readers judge the quality of the reply. Does it address each complaint directly?
Does it give a rational response or does it give an emotional counterattack? Does the writer do a
good job in representing his/her organisation?
Responding with reason, not emotion Readers will often have strong feelings on the subjects discussed in Post Opinion and Post Bag and this may cause them to “rush to judgment” and misinterpret the writer’s intended meaning. It is important, therefore, to make sure your students make an honest attempt at understanding the writer's point. Once they understand the writer’s intended meaning and the evidence presented in its support, they should be free to express their own opinions as well—as strongly as they see fit.