Thursday, August 24, 2017

Writing Op-Eds

According to an old Chinese curse, we are living in "interesting times," which means many of us have the sudden urge to express ourselves about the path our country is taking. In this regard, writers have an advantage. We are trained to express our thoughts via the written word.

One of the best ways to get your views to the public is through an op-ed. Op-eds (originally "opposite the editorial page") are short, succinct opinion pieces. Like letters to the editor, they always refer to current events. (But unlike letters to the editor, they don't necessarily have to cite a recent article.)

Along with letters to the editor, op-eds are the most widely read page on any newspaper. They have the power to influence public opinion, and to shape editorial policy.
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How to write an op-ed

Op-eds are journalistic writing; they are brief, to the point, and provide information as well as expressing a point of view. They can be told from a first-person perspective if the writer's personal experience makes an essential contribution to the point being made. When writing an op-ed, keep these tips in mind:

1) Base your op-ed on facts. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but only those opinions that are backed up by factual evidence will get published in a newspaper or online venue.

2) Structure your op-ed as an argument. Most op-eds are meant to be persuasive. Check to see that you have made your point in a logical, structured manner.

3) Pare down your prose. Eliminate excess adjectives and adverbs. Keep your writing direct. The purpose of an op-ed is to convince and/or enlighten readers, not to entertain them.

4) Choose a topic that is timely. You can write an article about anything that is current. For example, you can write about someone who has recently been honored, or you can focus on complex matters that require explanation. You can write a critique, or you can support a particular political position.

Pitching your op-ed

Many news outlets require a pitch either before they consider your op-ed for publication, or sometimes alongside your submitted piece. A pitch is a short introduction to what you intend to write (or have written), and it provides your qualifications. A pitch can be summarized as: "This is why you should publish my piece."

Make absolutely sure you read the guidelines before you submit or pitch your op-ed. Guidelines will define word count limits (usually under 1000), explain how to submit, and so on. Most news outlets will also include how long they will take to make a decision which, because op-eds are timely, is usually a matter of days.

What to include in a pitch:

1) "How is my point of view relevant?" Explain, briefly, why your opinion is important right now.

2) "Why am I the best person to write this op-ed?" Give your qualifications. If you are basing your op-ed on personal experience, explain what that experience is. For example, if you are writing about health care and are disabled, include that information.

3) Summarize what your op-ed is about in two or three sentences.

4) Include all of your contact information.

Where to submit?

The first place to look for an op-ed submission is your local paper. Subscribers and local residents always get first preference when it comes to publishing letters and op-eds. But you can also submit op-eds to publications that have a wide national or international readership. These are harder to get into, but not impossible.

Online news sites, which have proliferated in recent years, will accept submissions from anywhere.

Resources

The Op-Ed Project is your go-to site for tips on pitching and writing op-eds. The site also lists over 100 publications that publish op-eds, as well as their submission guidelines.

How to Submit an Op-Ed Article to a Major Website gives some great tips on how to submit an op-ed piece to a major publication. In most cases, newspapers like the New York Times will turn you down. But, if you have a compelling point to make, and the credentials to back it up, high-powered outlets will often publish submissions from writers who are relatively unknown.


4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful information.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good advice. Years ago I had a monthly column in a paper and it was a lot of fun but also a lot of pressure coming up with something clever every four weeks. I continued with it for over two years, and then moved from there area.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Having written well over 200 op-eds and have had only a few dozen published there is a strong bias for staus quo thinking and dubious policies of Democrats.

    ReplyDelete

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