Why Op-Eds Matter

Op-eds can be persuasive and emotional in tone. For example: if your goal is to convince local and state decision makers to provide access to safe and appealing water at no charge throughout the school day, you could ask a parent or student to write an op–ed about how the program could impact them.

Public commentary has long been one of the most powerful ways to broadly communicate ideas. By having an opinion editorial, commonly called an op-ed, published, you’ll be able to convey your campaign’s essential messages to legislators, journalists and the community through the voice of one of your volunteers or advocates who is passionate about your cause.

In the past few years, competition from expanded news and information sources like blogs and social media has made publication easier, but competition for attention tougher. This means that you’ll have to offer your best thinking and most influential voices to maximize your chances of having a newspaper print your op-ed—and have people care who you are and what you have to say.

Op-eds can be persuasive and emotional in tone. For example: if your goal is to convince local and state decision makers to make sure students have access to safe and appealing water at schools for no charge, you could ask a community member to write an emotional op–ed about how the programs could affect their life and health.

Op-Ed Tips and Tricks

  • Choose your signer carefully. To ensure the best chance of earning placement on a news platform or gaining people’s attention, enlist a high-profile influencer to sign and submit your op-ed. Ideally, this influencer should be well known within your community and the audience of the publication, such as a doctor, researcher, teacher, active parent, school principal or superintendent, or politician. Keep in mind that if you write an op-ed that mentions legislation and ask a legislator to sign it, all costs related to researching, writing and placing the op-ed are lobbying expenses.
  • Ask yourself: “Who cares?” Make sure your piece will clearly resonate with or be meaningful to the public. Start by writing from the reader’s point of view.
  • Keep things tight. News outlets have limited space, so keep your opinion editorial to 500 words or so. Some outlets have even shorter limits, while a few will accept  700  words or more. Check your paper’s requirements before submitting.
  • Speak conversationally. Avoid jargon, fancy words and slang. Your op-ed must be understandable to the general public, including people who may have no knowledge of the issue or your campaign. It is generally accepted for accessibility that information should be written at an 8th grade reading level or lower. 
  • Get to the point. Make your key points early and often, and back them up with facts and examples.
  • Offer a short, snappy headline. A good headline gives readers a preview of what your op-ed has to say. (Keep in mind that some news outlets will write their own headlines, regardless of what you submit.)
  • Be prepared to be edited. Op-ed submissions are subject to revisions, editing and fact-checking. Editors usually do NOT need your approval to make revisions or edits to accommodate space limitations, provided they do not change the context of your position. Sources for factual statements should be listed at the bottom of your op-ed to expedite review and placement processes.
  • Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, title, organization (as needed), email and phone number in case the editors want to contact you.

A sample op-ed is available below, and in the Resources section.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose your signer carefully. Having a local leader’s signature on your op-ed can help increase its chance of being published.
  • Be brief and check your target publication’s word limit for op-eds. Usually, 500 words is a good target.
  • A good op-ed makes both rational and emotional appeals.

Related Resources