Bret Stephens’s Suggestions for Op-Eds

New York Times’s Op-Ed writer Bret Stephens offers tips for aspiring Op-Ed that he’s learned over the years as an editor, op-ed writer and columnist.  He begins with this one:

“1) A wise editor once observed that the easiest decision a reader can make is to stop reading. This means that every sentence has to count in grabbing the reader’s attention, starting with the first. Get to the point: Why does your topic matter? Why should it matter today? And why should the reader care what you, of all people, have to say about it?”

These suggestions may be useful for writing Activity 5.7 Write an Op-Ed Argument on page 171 in Praxis 3e.

For 14 more tips, see Stephens’s essay at



New Euphemisms May Still Be Twattle

United CEO Oscar Munoz invented the euphemism “Re-accommodate” in an attempt to soften the description of what happened when a passenger was dragged off a flight.  The public didn’t like the wording very much.  Then he tried using the wording “truly horrific event” instead, but the damage was already done.

An euphemism is a figure of speech, which means the language is not meant literally or precisely.  Generally, euphemisms are mild words substituted for ones people think are too offensive.  When the person using a euphemism doesn’t understand an audience very well, though,  poor choices of softer words can make a situation worse.

A blog entry on, “Re-accommodating the Latest Euphemistic Twaddle,” discusses Munoz’s euphemisms, and others.

Untitled euph



Read Like Your Audience Would Read

This tote’s designers may have intended to say, “My Favorite Color is Glitter,” but their poor font choice conflated the “G” of glitter with the “L,” turning their design into a statement that most would read as “My Favorite color is Hitler.”  A simple change of font would have solved the problem.  The bag’s image

Hitler went viral on Twitter, with people offering comments like these:

“How did the designers Nazi that.”

“Waking up to see the führer this tweet has created”




Salman Rushdie’s Early Letters Reflect Audience Awareness

Prominent author Salman Rushdie, in an interview published on Literary Hub, reveals that his childhood letters to his parents were “fictions” designed to please them, his audience.  He didn’t want his parents to know he was unhappy at boarding school. Rather than detailing his true day-to-day life, he crafted content to have a certain effect upon them–to keep his mother from being sad and to show his father that his money was well spent.  See this excerpt from the interview:




Letter Convinced Schultz to Add the First African-American Peanuts Character

FrankliinIn 1968, schoolteacher Harriet Glickman wrote to Charles Schulz about the lack of African-American characters in the popular comic strip Peanuts.  Glickman, concerned about the racial tensions in the United States, urged Schultz that an African-American comic character could influence public opinion.  See Glickman’s first letter to Schultz below:


Peanunts Letter2

Schulz and Glickman exchanged several letters, discussing Schultz’s desire not to offend people of color by seeming to trivialize racial tensions by adding an African-American character. Glickman solicited opinions from some African-American friends and relayed their ideas to Schultz.  The two stayed in touch, and Schultz notified Gluckman when the new character would appear in 1973.

Read the article, “How a Schoolteacher Helped Create the First Black Peanuts Character,” for more of the correspondence between Schultz and Gluckman.  Identify the arguments Glickman used to convince Schultz.  Why do you think she was successful?




Are Emoji the “Gargoyles” of Our Time?

Emoji2Architecture has a long tradition of using medieval grotesques (sometimes incorrectly called gargoyles) and other faces to decorate architecture.  Recently, Changiz Tehrani, a Dutch architect, decorated a mid-rise building in Amersfoort with 22 cast-concrete emojis.  An article in the Verge quoted Tehrani explaining why he used emoji:  “In classical architecture, they used heads of the king or whatever, and they put that on the façade . So we were thinking, what can we use as an ornament so when you look at this building in 10 or 20 years you can say ‘hey this is from that year!’”

What other emoji could you suggest as building decorations?  Do you think these images are a good choice to represent the contemporary culture?  If you think of them as visual rhetoric, what does the use of emoji express?


How Pepsi Got Visual Rhetoric So Wrong

Pepsi Ad

Kendall Jenner appears in Pepsi’s “tone deaf” ad that has since been pulled.

Pepsi’s ad staff may have been trying to strike a similar tone to Coke’s famous “Hilltop” 1971 ad However, Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner “Live for Now” advertisement misses the mark with the visual rhetoric choices the sponsors made.

Much of the criticism has focused on the ad’s unrealistic portrayal of a protest march as a pleasant outing, as well as its featuring of a rich and beautiful white model as a hero.  Such images trivialize racially-charged issues as well as the protest process.

Edward Boches explains the difference between the Coke and Pepsi ads: ““The ‘Hilltop’ spot wasn’t attempting to dramatize a real event. It was clearly contrived [visually] and invented as a moment. The Pepsi spot is attempting to recreate a protest march and in a very unrealistic way. Two, the promise of the Coke spot was a simple sentiment and a wish. ‘We would like to teach … as in ‘like to.’ It was a wish.”


Instagram Reacts to Pepsi Advertisement

Instagram exploded with meme images such as the two below that satirize the Pepsi advertisement.  What is the point of these images?  Perhaps that complex and racially charged situations cannot be solved by a Pepsi.

View this post on Instagram

Drink Pepsi, Not War

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