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How to Write an Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor

By Communications Team

Most of us read Op-Eds or Letters to the Editor (LTE) in our local newspapers or online on a weekly basis, but it may not occur to us that we may have unique expertise and insights to contribute to the debate with an Op-Ed or LTE.

Op-Eds and LTEs are a great and often effective way to voice your views and to advocate specific policy solutions, especially on a local level. For example, if you have school-age children, you can draw on your own experiences as a parent to argue for greater school choice and flexibility or higher education reform. Using your expertise can help you to craft a compelling argument which will resonate with readers and local officials. See this guide below and try your hand at writing an op-ed or LTE on an issue you feel passionate about in your community!

Structure:

Introduction of ideas 

  • Lead or Hook: The beginning is your chance to capture your reader’s attention. What can you start with that will compel your audience to pay attention? Perhaps an anecdote or surprising fact?
  • Context: Now back up your idea. In a few lines, explain what the issue is at hand and provide some background and context.
  • Thesis: Finally, make an argument. Tell your reader where you stand on this issue.

First body paragraph

  • Evidence #1: Describe the central piece of evidence that supports your position.
  • Tie Back: Make sure to connect this evidence back to your main argument, explaining to readers how it supports your thesis statement.

Second Body Paragraph

  • Evidence #2: Describe a second piece of evidence that supports your position. Try using a different type of persuasion (see types here).
  • Tie Back: Again, make sure to connect this evidence back to your main argument, explaining to readers how it supports your thesis statement.

Third Body Paragraph

  • Counter Argument: What would be the main argument of the opposing side? Address any flaws in your argument.
  • Rebuttal: What is your response to this argument? Why doesn’t it apply to this situation/context?

Conclusion

  • Summary: This should not be a summary like in a college or high school essay – it should propose a solution. Tell your readers the “next steps” to the issue or problem you have outlined.
  • What do you want the reader to leave with? Give them a personal comment, a call to action or a question that will spur their curiosity on the issue. 

Language and Tone

  • Be concise and straightforward – avoid being too wordy.
  • Do not use jargon.
  • Use simple, clear language; avoid flowery prose. If not overly complex, metaphors can be useful to illustrate a point.
  • Length can vary, but average is 500 – 750 words.
  • Own your expertise! Draw on your own expert knowledge and firsthand experience.

Pitching/Placing Op-Eds

Most media outlets, local and national, will have specific guidelines in their “Opinion” pages for submitting op-eds and LTEs, with contact info provided. For example:

Become an influencer by trying your hand at drafting an Op-Ed or LTE – this could even be a fun Circle activity. Brainstorm ideas, then write up a draft, and share and peer-edit at the next meeting. Follow this roadmap below to get started!