Writing an op-ed article is an excellent way to share your views on a topic that matters and let millions of people all over the world see it.
Aside from the possibility of writing a world-changing opinion, having your article published can earn you and your institution respect and recognition.
However, many people don’t know how to write an op-ed article and get stuck before they even begin. So, here is an easy guide with 17 simple tips that will undoubtedly help you make your opinion count.
1. Go where the news goes
Living in the 21st century has many perks, and one of them is that information travels fast.
You don’t need to spend days searching for an issue that is worth writing about – instead, go to a news website, such as BBC, and see what the world has to offer. Readers want to read about what’s happening in the world right now, even if it doesn’t affect them directly.
For example, violations of human rights in some developing countries is an interesting topic that is sure to turn heads, as long as you choose to write about something that is happening at the moment.
2. Keep it short
If you look at op-ed examples online, you will notice they are usually concise and to the point, with most having around 750 words or less.
While there are no definite length requirements for an op-ed template, it is necessary to understand that newspapers have limited space to offer and limited time to go through all the material they receive.
A shorter piece offering a straight opinion is far more likely to get published than an extensive argument with too many speculations.
3. Make one point and make it count
An exceptional op-ed article has its foundation on a single point.
Don’t aim to solve a complex global issue in 750 words; instead, keep a tight focus on what matters the most to you and propose a well-grounded opinion that will leave the reader thinking. That’s how it’s done in the most interesting op-ed articles.
Use a simple method to see if your argument is concise enough: if you cannot explain your central idea in a single sentence, you need to narrow it down.
4. Start with your main point
You might usually write for science or academic journals, but don’t forget an opinion piece has a different audience. Busy readers won’t have the time or willpower to go through all of your points and reflections before concluding. They need to be hooked straight away even to open your op-ed article.
Your best tactic is to outline your central idea in the very first paragraph. Then, use the rest of the piece to explain all the hows and whys.
5. Explain the importance
However, an excellent op-ed structure is often not enough to engage the reader.
Here’s the deal:
Even though readers might be interested in your chosen op-ed article topic, they are not interested in your opinion on it just yet. What you need to do is let them know why your opinion matters.
Here are examples:
- Will your proposition help find a solution to the malnutrition of children in developing countries?
- Will your research on the topic open the eyes of your readers as well as policymakers?
Make sure to justify why your opinion matters and why people should take something away from your article.
6. Say what needs to happen
Another tip to writing an op-ed article is to include specific propositions that could eventually help to solve the issue you’re writing about.
Your recommendations might not be original, but they need to have potential effectiveness and some grounds behind them.
Whether you base your proposition on years of extensive research or simply on your well-developed common sense, make sure to elaborate on the positive outcomes of your idea.
7. Give examples
Your readers will need something to remember your article by, so give them some bright details that will stick in their memory instead of filling the space with dry facts.
Use real-life stories and examples to bring your opinionated article to life. Address the readers with straightforward questions to catch their attention and make them think instead of just scrolling through your article.
Address the events of past years to evoke memories and create a link between them and your story. All of these features can help you write a thought-provoking and engaging op-ed article.
8. Write in your voice
Again, you might be used to academic writing, which requires the use of a formal tone and not addressing the reader personally.
Formal academic language looks dry and dull to your new audience; these are the people who see eye-catching news articles with big headers every day, so make sure you meet their expectations.
Don’t be afraid to make references to your personal experiences that are relevant to your op-ed article idea—after all, sometimes it is the private details that make an article memorable.
9. Use your connection to readers
Have you ever thought about why most local newspapers employ writers who live in the area? One of the main reasons is that they can build a solid connection with local readers.
Submitting your op-ed article to a local newspaper might raise your chances of getting published.
But there are other ways to connect with your readers, such as mentioning your professional field, religion, ethnic group, or other features that relate you to your chosen subject or to the readers who might be interested in it.
10. Use short sentences and paragraphs
Given the tight word limit of the op-ed format, you should avoid wasting space on unnecessarily long sentences. Instead, try to make short but valid points. And don’t write anything that is not crucial to your argument.
- Show the editors that you understand the requirements and purpose of the article well.
- Give you more space to develop your ideas.
- Help you keep a good pace, so as not to bore readers.
11. Don’t use jargon
Try avoiding jargon in your article. Remember that your article is intended for a wide audience, and most readers will not understand all the confusing technical terms that you might be tempted to use.
If reference to a difficult concept is crucial, make sure to explain it to your readers.
This will create the impression that you value their time and will also allow them to learn something new from your article.
12. Avoid passive voice
Another step in learning how to write an op-ed article is teaching you to avoid the use of passive sentences.
For instance, instead of “It can be argued that…” start your sentence with “I want to argue that…” followed by a thorough explanation of your point.
Using active voice will help you create a more persuasive and influential piece, as the customer will pick up on the certainty with which you express your opinion on current events.
13. It’s not about the rebuttal
If your article is written to oppose another op-ed article you’ve read, we have some advice for you: take a deep breath. And avoid making your piece merely a rebuttal. Don’t aim to destroy the other writer’s article with a sword of truth—or, rather, a point-by-point explanation of what he or she did wrong.
Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that your readers have read the article that made your blood boil, which means they won’t understand what you’re talking about.
A good op-ed article sample for this type of opinionated article contains only one mention of the work it opposes, whereas the rest of it focuses on exploring your views rather than another writer’s wrongs.
14. Provide counterpoints
Acknowledging the previous articles written on the same argumentative essay topic gives you more credibility and helps you gain your readers’ trust.
An op-ed article that does not include any counterarguments looks unrealistic and inapplicable to the serious issues that you are discussing.
Make sure to provide either some references to works written from a different perspective or one or two simple drawbacks or limitations to your proposition.
15. End well
Now, after you have gathered all your points and arguments, and have created a compelling article, you need to leave readers with some food for thought. Unfortunately, restating what you’ve already said in the main body won’t get you there.
Looking at op-ed examples from the New York Times, you might notice that many writers choose to conclude their articles with an idea similar to the one they have in the introduction, but with more detail.
Or, perhaps, you want to mention the practical value of what you have argued or suggest a direction for further research. Don’t hesitate to improvise. As long as your ending leaves the reader thinking, then it’s all good.
16. Have fun
While you should certainly take the issue you are arguing about seriously, do not attempt to approach writing an op-ed article as you would an academic paper.
You are more than welcome to include examples from Entertainment Tonight and let your inner genius be creative, instead of searching for op-ed outline examples.
17. Submit your work
Don’t hope for your first try at an op-ed article to be featured in op-ed Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, and so on. These large newspapers receive tons of op-ed submissions each day, the vast majority of which face rejection.
Instead, focus on smaller local newspapers, professional magazines, and community journals. Not only will you have a higher chance of getting your work out there, but you will also have a better shot at reaching the readers if your article goes to print.
Overall, writing an op-ed article is an exciting opportunity to express yourself and to do something meaningful: you can get millions of people to notice your opinion, and changing the views of one person might even help you change the entire world for a good cause.