Writing an Op-Ed
An op-ed is an opinion article on a timely news topic from an expert or specialist in a particular field. An op-ed provides an important opportunity to educate and contribute to public debate and sometimes even shape public policy. It is also a way to demonstrate your expertise and highlight your research.
- Focus on one idea or argument and tell readers your viewpoint in the first paragraph. They need to know why they should care within the first two paragraphs.
- Tie your piece to a recent news hook if possible (ie. a recent Supreme Court decision, release of a new bill or policy, approval of a new drug) and get it out quickly. When writing on timely topics, waiting even one extra day may be too late.
- Don’t be afraid to be controversial and express strong opinions.
- When possible, use a dramatic anecdote or an example that connects to the issue and helps illustrate your point.
- Use relevant facts to reinforce your argument, but avoid filling your entire piece with statistics.
- Look for opportunities to acknowledge a differing opinion. This gives you the chance to get a jump on objections to your argument by raising and answering them in advance.
- Have a clear call to action.
- The ideal length for an op-ed is 500 to 700 words.
- Be clear and concise and use language that resonates with a lay audience.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short and punchy.
- Don’t be afraid to use your personal voice and write in the first-person. “I strongly believe…”
- Use an active voice.
- Be true to your personal writing style. Each writer has his or her own style; your best bet is to be yourself.
- Be aware that your opinions will be public and associated with you and your institution.
- You may be called on by other media outlets to discuss your opinion. Be prepared to do so.
- Know that your piece may be edited for length and clarity by the newspaper.
Submitting your Op-Ed:
We recommend that you contact Crystal Mackay, Associate Director of Media Relations, for assistance in pitching your op-ed.
If you choose to submit it on your own:
- Offer exclusivity to one publication. Don’t approach a second publication until the first has declined.
- Use a strong headline and the words “Op-Ed Submission” in your subject line.
- Include your title along with the name of the School (ie. Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University). It is not necessary to include your department.
- Briefly highlight your area of expertise.
- Copy and paste the submission into the body of the email.