Op-Eds have been a steadfast part of publications for generations and remain a steady force in journalism, allowing new ideas and perspectives to intervene in longstanding debates.
Writing a compelling and persuasive Op-Ed is an art. OtterPR Account Strategist Elizabeth Galewski walks us through how to craft one.
Publishing a well-written Op-Ed is a great way to share your expertise and advocate for meaningful causes while raising your profile at the same time. Here are some tips for crafting an Op-Ed that will start people thinking and get you noticed.
Defining the Op-Ed
An Op-Ed constitutes a persuasive appeal on a timely, controversial issue that is currently a common topic of public conversation. It is not a piece of objective journalism. It also does not seek to “weigh both sides.”
Rather, the goal is to build a strong case for a particular proposition. Authors of effective Op-Eds support their position with grounds, which are compelling reasons backed up with evidence. Persuasive Op-Eds usually adopt a reasoned tone.
Find Your Platform & Choose Your Topic Wisely
Editors are more likely to publish your Op-Ed if you are an expert on the issue or can offer a unique perspective on it. Having advanced training or insider knowledge is called “having a platform.” You should therefore pick a topic that others already recognize you as a credible authority on.
The text of your Op-Ed should clearly explain this platform. If you fail to do so, readers may be skeptical of your advice — why should I care what this person says? This reaction can lead them to stop reading.
To increase your chances of getting published, also keep in mind that editors want important and timely content. Pick an issue that people are currently debating on either the local or state levels that you have a unique perspective on or adequate credentials. Avoid focusing on national or international issues unless you’re already a recognized national expert on them or have a compelling personal connection to them, since otherwise the chances of your Op-Ed getting published would be low.
Follow Publishing Conventions
Publications differ on their writing guidelines, but many have similar parameters for Op-Ed submissions. In general, Op-Eds should be roughly 500-800 words long. Strive to write simple, clear prose. Avoid using big words or jargon.
Your Op-Ed should have a clear thesis that appears early in the piece. I’ve found two dependable ways to come up with this central idea: (1) answer questions people have asked themselves, or (2) provide a solution to a problem.
To strike an effective persuasive tone, I recommend theses that advance claims of policy, not fact or value. In other words, tell your readers who you would like to do what with an eye toward the future, rather than quibbling about past facts or laying blame. Try to be specific. Your essay should delineate both a clear plan as well as an agent who could execute it. To figure out your claim of policy, ask yourself: What would you like to see happen, and who has the actual ability to make that happen?
Whatever your thesis, make sure your essay advances the public conversation in a significant way. Don’t simply repeat what others have said before. Instead, you will need to give people something new to think about.
Effective Op-Ed Structure
I have found dependable success with op-eds structured in the following way:
The first paragraph of your op-ed should establish the timeliness of your essay. Explain what’s going on in your community or society at large that makes your argument important for readers to consider now.
The second should explain your platform and present your thesis in the form of a claim of policy. Sometimes it makes sense for the platform to come first; sometimes, the thesis. You may need two paragraphs to cover both adequately.
Only after these steps have been completed should you launch into the actual reasons that readers should believe your proposition. This will make up the body of your essay. Don’t forget to spend a substantial amount of time in this section convincing readers that your plan is practical and realistic.
Finally, don’t underestimate the time and energy that goes into an effective conclusion. People tend to remember the endings of things, so the last sentence should encapsulate your argument in a catchy soundbite. Strive to say something others will want to repeat. In my experience, strong endings rarely appear in a first writing session.
Op-Eds enable you to demonstrate thought leadership, increase your visibility, and sway public opinion. Mastering this standard essay format not only brings well-deserved clout, but may also help you change the world.