How to Write an Op-Ed

AAUW Outlook cover and the St. Louis Post Dispatch op-ed featuring Lilly Ledbetter

AAUW Outlook cover and a St. Louis Post Dispatch op-ed featuring Lilly Ledbetter

Opinion editorial (op-ed) pieces are printed “opposite the editorial page” and are written by community leaders and syndicated columnists, not by the newspaper staff writers. Op-eds can be very influential in shaping public debate and can serve as stepping stones to interview requests.

Planning Your Op-Ed

  • Pick a timely and local topic. Op-eds should relate to a current event and have a definite point of view, but they should not be reactions to a published article (use letters to the editor for that purpose). Choose an issue that has a local impact, and use a specific person, group, or event to show how your community is affected.
  • Research op-ed guidelines. Most papers have a length limit on op-eds. It is usually around 700 words, but be sure to find out before you begin writing.

Writing and Submitting Your Op-Ed

  • Focus on one idea. Concentrate on one theme or issue, and organize your thoughts in a clear and logical order. Present the issue in the first paragraph and offer suggestions in the second or third paragraphs. Limit your paragraphs to two or three sentences, avoid technical terms and insider jargon, and back up assertions with facts.
  • Identify yourself as part of AAUW. Most papers prefer printing op-eds written by a local authority or community leader. Signing your op-ed as an AAUW office holder or member with expertise on the topic can make it more likely to be chosen.
  • What makes someone an expert? Someone with a closer-than-normal perspective on the issue they are discussing is an expert. This may include a local lawyer discussing the impact of a Supreme Court nomination, or a teacher discussing how cuts in education translate into the day-to-day situation in her classroom. You should submit your op-ed not only as an AAUW member, but also according to your personal experience.
  • Edit your document: Have some fresh eyes look it over for the requirements above. Finalize your draft. AAUW policy staff is available to help proof your op-ed if requested via advocacy@aauw.org.
  • Follow up. It is vital to call the paper after the op-ed is submitted to verify the opinion page editor got your email. With larger papers, you might want to wait a day after submitting if you can afford the time. With smaller papers, you can call within a couple hours.

KEY POINTS

  • Know the guidelines and instructions for submitting your op-ed.
  • Focus on one idea, and stay on topic throughout the op-ed
  • Identify yourself as part of AAUW when signing the op-ed.
  • Follow up if you do not hear anything within a few days of submitting your op-ed.

 

Related Resources

Advocacy How-to Guides

Resources to guide activists in advocacy efforts.

How to Write a Letter to the Editor

Write letters to spur news editors to cover an issue or urge readers to support your cause.

How to Work with the Media

Build relationships and draw attention to AAUW priority issues and events you are planning.