- How Science Works
- Sources and Experts: Where to Find Them and How to Vet Them
- Making Sense of Science Stats
- Editing for Story
- Editing Controversial Science
- Holding Science to Account
- Covering Health Care
- Climate and the Environment
- Fact-Checking Science Journalism: How to Make Sure Your Stories Are True
Illustrating Complex Science Stories
- The Role of Visuals in Science Journalism
- The Process of Building Science-Centric Graphics
- Strategies for Using Visuals to Put Breaking Science in Context
- Special Considerations for Data Visualization
- Uncertainty and Misinformation
- Editorial Illustration, Photography, and Moving Images
- Additional Reading and Resources
- About the Author
- Social Media and Reader Engagement
- Popular Science
- Op-Eds and Essays
- About This Handbook
The Call to Action
By Ashley Smart / 2 minute read
Opinion essays will typically close with a call to action, a parting thought, delivered in the writer’s own voice, that cues the readers to how they should respond after reading the essay. Think of the call to action as the takeaway that you want the readers to still be thinking about long after they’ve put the piece down.
There are many ways to pull this off, some more direct than others. For example, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo closed out a 2020 essay on California’s wildfires and worsening air quality this way:
It may seem that passing rules to protect the earth would require unusual political courage. But we have tackled these problems before….
Dirty air and fire surround us, but we still have the collective capacity to mitigate them. Breathing is important. Let’s get to it.
Manjoo’s call to action is quite literally a call to action: He implores readers to “get to it” — to put pressure on policy makers to pass laws that will protect California from the threat of wildfire and other sources of air pollution.
A call to action needn’t literally call for the reader to do a certain thing; sometimes it implores a reader to feel a certain way. In a 2021 essay that revisited the subject — and climate change more generally — he closed this way:
The importance we place on pleasant weather is exactly why an altered climate could be so devastating to this state’s identity. The Mamas & the Papas sang of California as an escapist dreamland untouched by gloom. You’d be safe and warm if you were in L.A.
Not long from now, Los Angeles and elsewhere here might be more nightmare than dream — way too warm and none too safe, all the leaves burned, the sky ash gray.
By painting a picture of what California stands to lose because of climate change, Manjoo invites the reader to share in a feeling of loss and mourning — a feeling that is bound to linger even after the specific facts of the essay have been forgotten.