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Op-ed Guidelines

Op-eds are opinion pieces written by members of the public that typically are published in a news outlet’s editorial section. Newspapers, magazines and other news publications regularly run op-eds to ensure they present diverse opinions on topics of importance to readers. Since op-eds are longer than letters to the editor, they offer an opportunity for a better-developed argument.

UC can help outline an op-ed, review it, and/or give additional ideas and approaches in drafting an opinion piece. We also can assist in submitting the op-ed or suggest the best outlets for submission.

Good op-eds require:

  • Strong opinions, articulately stated.
  • Timely topics. News gets stale quickly; so don't give opinions if they're simply a rehashing of what already has been said.
  • Publications that carry op-eds have standard word limits. Know them, and keep them in mind when writing.
  • Write about a subject based on a particular expertise, either because of a scholarly background or personal experience.
  • Choose a topic and stick to it, rather than dilute an argument by tackling more than one subject.
  • A call to action. This requires the arguments outlined in the op-ed to come to a logical conclusion — and that a solution is presented. Do not simply outline a problem.

Writing tips for op-eds:

  • Summarize the thesis quickly. Most op-eds range from 700 to 900 words. Do not use too many words to set up the argument. Enough space should be reserved to provide evidence or examples to back up the thesis.
  • Connect the topic to the readership of the publication. Writing about war in the Middle East for submission to the local daily? Tell local readers why they should pay attention. Focusing on a local issue but submitting to a national publication? Be sure to show why the issue has broad appeal.
  • Consider using a short list to help articulate the major points in a way that is accessible to the readers: “Here are three reasons the proposal should be defeated” or “Here are four possible solutions that won’t cost the taxpayers a nickel.”
  • Write with the readers in mind. Tailor the style — academic, breezy, thoughtful, humorous — to the publication’s audience.
  • Back up the arguments with facts — and be sure to confirm those facts before they are used. Don’t use footnotes, but attribute figures to their sources when using them: “Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that…” or “Data from the 2010 Census clearly show that…”
  • Convictions should be firm. If the author is refuting arguments from an opposing side that are common knowledge, dedicate more space arguing the point than articulating those held by others.
  • Be precise in grammar, spelling, sentence construction and other essentials of composition. Lack of attention to these aspects of the work reflects poorly on the author as a legitimate source of information.
  • Once an op-ed is published, remember to take advantage of its publication. Distribute copies of it to others who may find it useful. Please let University Communications know about it so it can be included in news reports disseminated across campus.