An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page, is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper’s editorial board. These are different from editorials (which are usually unsigned and written by editorial board members) and letters to the editor (which are submitted by readers of the journal or newspaper).
- Follow the guidelines Op-eds are longer than letters to the editor, and there is more competition for space. Check with the paper for length requirements (usually 600-800 words).
- Be timely and try to address a controversial issue being covered at that time.
- Identify your affiliation, if any. If you can use a professional title that suggests authority, do so. If you work for an organization, get permission to sign the op-ed as a representative of that organization.
- Offer an exclusive Op-Ed. Feel free to send it to papers far from where you live, but avoid sending it to two newspapers in the same “market” such as the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post. But you can easily submit the same piece to five or ten local papers in different counties—greatly increasing your chances of being published. Assure the op-ed editor in your cover letter that the piece has not been submitted to any other paper in their market. If, on the other hand, you sent it to only one paper, let that paper know you are offering them an exclusive.
- Avoid excess rhetoric. State the subject under controversy clearly. You are trying to persuade middle-of-the-road readers.
- Use a catchy title. If you don’t, the paper will be more likely to use its own—which may not emphasize your central message. (Even if you do write your own headline, don’t be surprised if it appears under a different one.)
- Redo as a Letter to the Editor. Be prepared to shorten and re-submit your article as a letter to the editor if it does not get accepted as an op-ed.