Tips for Writing Opinion/Editorial Pieces
Office of Communications Marketing
These tips and pointers were provided by several national media contacts, including John Timpane, commentary page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Andy Mollison of Cox News Service.
- The nature of an opinion/editorial piece requires that it argue something: that something is or is not so, is or is not worthy, somebody should or should not do something. If you're not arguing any of the above, an op/ed can also predict the outcome of certain events: what will occur if a political figure does or does not take action on an issue, etc.
- Op/eds MUST have a thesis. This sentence is what will be pitched to an editor to convince them to print your article. If it doesn't have a thesis, there's no main idea to pitch to the editor.
- Op/eds are traditionally between 700 and 800 words, but most editors say that the shorter the piece is, the better. With space at a premium in all national publications, a shorter piece is much more likely to run.
- Try to construct a short, compelling introductory sentence. The lead-in should encapsulate the idea of the piece and instantly engage the reader. Most editors judge intros by this rule of thumb: the piece has less than 23 seconds to interest the reader. If your first paragraph doesn't grab them, they won't stick around long enough to finish reading the article.
- A good op/ed will offer proof that supports the opinion of the author. Proof can be introduced in the form of statistics (with a webpage or other resource where they can be checked), expert testimony (with the book and page number where they can be found), or personal experience.
- Don't be afraid to let your personality show in your article. Remember that your piece isn't just words on a page; people will read the article if they feel they are hearing from a real person they can identify with.
- Come up with a good last line. Come to some sort of conclusion, even if the conclusion is that the outcome of an issue will be uncertain.