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Op-Ed Guidelines

An op-ed, or opinion editorial, is a narrative essay that presents the writer's opinion or thoughts about an issue. Op-eds can raise awareness about a particular topic, aim to persuade and encourage others to take action, and substantiate the writer as an expert on a subject.

Op-eds are published across multiple platforms, from daily newspapers to digital publications. They are typically 500-700 words but can be shorter. Some op-eds are written by publication staff, but many are submitted by the publication's readers.

Writing an Op-Ed

When considering an op-ed, get to the point:

  • Why does your topic matter?
  • Why should it matter today?
  • And why should the reader care what you, in particular, have to say about it?

Start with a sentence. Try to sum up your opinion in a single sentence to begin, then think about data and anecdotes to support your initial point.

Forget objectivity. An op-ed is about your opinion and perspective. Think of it like a legal brief; no need for objectivity. Put your argument forward in a persuasive, authoritative manner. Don't be afraid to be passionate in arguing your point.

Be informal. Write as if you are debating with a friend. Use simple, everyday language that is easy to understand. Keep in mind you are writing for a general audience who may not be as familiar with the subject as you are.

Avoid the passive voice. Write declarative sentences. Delete words such as “apparently,” “understandable,” or “indeed.” Project a tone of confidence – the middle road between modesty and pretension.

Keep it short and simple. State your opinion clearly and quickly, back it up with facts and examples then wrap it up. Keep your op-ed to 700 words maximum. Editors likely will not consider longer pieces. Your University Marketing & Communications (UMC) contact can help you revise, rewrite, or edit your op-ed.

The Basic Op-Ed Format

Lead paragraph: Right away, grab readers with your first sentence; make them want to read more. Start with an interesting story or example that encapsulates your point.

Supporting paragraphs: Once you've stated your point and grabbed readers' attention, build on your lead with facts, data, and anecdotes.

Wrap up: In the concluding paragraph, take your argument one step further and provide readers with information about what to do next. If you're trying to move people to action, be sure to answer the question, "What can I do?" Make the final sentence as compelling as the first. If you started with an example, bring the story full circle by referencing your original point.