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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!
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?
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.
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!