Equipping Writers for Success
HELPFUL LINKS   |   EDITOR'S CORNER (Ramblings on the Writing Life)

Getting Around...

Career Essentials
Getting Started
Queries & Manuscripts
Market Research

Classes & Conferences

Crafting Your Work
Grammar Guides

Writing Contests

The Writing Business
Income & Expenses
Selling Reprints

Negotiating Contracts Setting Fees/Getting Paid
Rights & Copyright
Tech Tools

The Writing Life
The Writing Life
Rejection/Writer's Block
Health & Safety

Time Management
Column: Ramblings on the Writing Life

Fiction Writing - General
General Techniques
Characters & Viewpoint
Setting & Description
Column: Crafting Fabulous Fiction

Fiction Writing - Genres
Children's Writing
Mystery Writing
Romance Writing
SF, Fantasy & Horror
Flash Fiction & More

Nonfiction Writing
General Freelancing
Columns & Syndication

Topical Markets
Travel Writing

Creative Nonfiction

International Freelancing
Business/Tech Writing

Other Topics
Poetry & Greeting Cards Screenwriting

Book Publishing
Traditional Publishing
Electronic Publishing
POD & Subsidy Publishing

Promotion/Social Media
General Promotion Tips
Book Reviews
Press Releases

Blogging/Social Media
Author Websites

Media/Public Speaking

Articles in Translation

Search Writing-World.com:

Yahoo: MSN:

This free script provided by
JavaScript Kit

How to Write an Op-Ed
by John McLain

Return to Successful Freelancing · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

One of the best ways to gain credible visibility for a corporate client is to have that company's chief executive submit an opinion piece to a major newspaper and have it published. Easier said than done.

Quite often, most CEOs have no time to write an op-ed; even fewer know how. That's where you step in to help the executive craft a fiery opinion, which is supported by facts making his or her case. An op-ed is not an essay, something that slowly unrolls like a carpet, building momentum to some point or conclusion. It the opposite.

In an op-ed, you essentially state your conclusion first. You make your strongest point up front, then spend the rest of the op-ed making your case, or back-filling with the facts. Done right, it's persuasive writing at its best. You will help the company win converts, gain high-quality publicity for the company, and you will be reaching the elite audience of opinion-makers who regularly read the op-ed pages.

Here's a checklist to keep your op-ed on track:

  • Focus tightly on one issue or idea -- in your first paragraph. Be brief.

  • Express your opinion, then base it on factual, researched or first-hand information.

  • Be timely, controversial, but not outrageous. Be the voice of reason.

  • Be personal and conversational; it can help you make your point. No one likes a stuffed shirt.

  • Be humorous, provided that your topic lends itself to humor.

  • Have a clear editorial viewpoint - come down hard on one side of the issue. Don't equivocate.

  • Provide insight, understanding: educate your reader without being preachy.

  • Near the end, clearly re-state your position and issue a call to action. Don't philosophize.

  • Have verve, and "fire in the gut" indignation to accompany your logical analysis.

  • Don't ramble or let your op-ed unfold slowly, as in an essay.

  • Use clear, powerful, direct language.

  • Emphasize active verbs, forget the adjectives and adverbs, which only weaken writing.

  • Avoid cliches and jargon.

  • Appeal to the average reader. Clarity is paramount.

  • Write 750 double-spaced words or less (fewer is always better).

  • Include a brief bio, along with your phone number, email address, and mailing address at the bottom.

Many major newspapers today accept timely op-eds by email. Check the paper's website first to be sure what its policy is. While it's tempting to fire off your op-ed to The New York Times, remember that there are many other major newspapers to consider. The New York Times receives more op-eds daily than any other paper in the US, so competition is fierce. It's better to be published in another excellent paper than to be not published in The New York Times.

Copyright © 2002 John McLain
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

John McLain is a former journalist and national media consultant. He is the author of How to Promote Your Home Business; his novel, The Reckoning, was published in December 2001, and he has completed a screenplay based on it. McLain has published short stories in many literary magazines. He is a member of Western Writers of America.


Copyright © 2018 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors and may not be reprinted
without the author's written permission, unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor

Organize your writing
and save time. Click here for a free download