Working with the Media
How to Write an Opinion-Editorial

Updated: 6.1.06

The op-ed section of a newspaper allows readers to share their opinions, such as a doctor or nurse who treats people without health insurance sharing their insights on this topic. The more well known the person is, the easier it will be to get the op-ed placed, especially in larger publications.

The following pointers will help you get your op-ed piece published:

1. Use the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign as a news hook. Tying your piece to an event, such as the launch of a community outreach effort, increases its chance of being published.

2. Keep it brief. Newspapers have limited space and editors do not have the time to cut your piece down to size. In general, 750 to 800 words will do.

3. Make a single point. You only have 750 to 800 words. Make one point clearly and persuasively.

4. Avoid jargon. Simple language ensures that all readers, even non-experts, can understand your point. For example, do not use acronyms or technical language.

5. Use examples. Illustrations, anecdotes and personal stories are persuasive tools. They help explain complicated issues and bring them to life.

6. Make a specific recommendation. This is an opinion piece. State your opinion on how to improve matters. However, opinions should be based on fact and should avoid advocacy.

7. Draw in the reader. Your first paragraph should draw the reader in by using a dramatic vignette or a well-stated argument.

8. Give readers an action step. Be sure to remind families and the community how to learn more about the low-cost and free health care coverage available in your state.

9. End with a bang. Be sure to summarize your argument in one strong final paragraph.

10. Follow up. Most op-ed editors will respond to you within a week. If you have not heard back in that time frame, or if your piece is particularly time sensitive, you can make one follow-up phone call to be sure it was received and ask about its status.

Make sure your op-ed is double-spaced with wide margins. List your name, address, phone, fax and e-mail contact information at the top of the opinion piece. Instructions for submitting an op-ed are usually at the bottom of the page where they appear or on the paper's Web site. Some newspapers like to receive them by mail, others prefer faxes, while others favor e-mail.