You’ve got something in your head and you want to get it out there into the world for others to see. So you write an op-ed in your local newspaper. Maybe you even send out a few to a few other papers too just to get the word out there. Maybe you’re doing this because you feel strongly about an issue, or perhaps just to get your thoughts out into written form. Whatever the reason, you’re on the right track!
But the odds are actually stacked against you. For starters, you’re competing for attention with hundreds of other stories on the front page, all vying for the reader’s eye. Next, your editor might decide that your piece isn’t up to par and run it somewhere on an obscure back page. Or, worse yet, they might decide that your piece is good enough and run with it, completely skipping over the rest of the paper!
If this sounds like something that’s keeping you up at night, don’t worry. There’s still hope. Although it won’t be easy, you can greatly increase your chances of getting your op-eds published by taking advantage of a few well-placed words and phrases.
Key Points to Keep In Mind
When you’re ready to write your piece, bear in mind the following points:
Know Your Audience
The first and most important point to keep in mind is to know your audience. You’re writing this for a specific group of people, and you should tailor your piece to appeal to them. This means that you should choose a newspaper that you know they’ll be interested in, and that you should compose your piece with the intent to speak to this group. If you don’t know your audience, it can be difficult to choose keywords and phrases that they’ll be able to find when searching for content related to your topic. In these instances, it might be a good idea to write a piece for a general audience and then edit it to fit the needs of your target group. Alternatively, you might want to write several pieces, selecting the one that most appeals to your target group. This will help you to get your point across effectively while also ensuring that your audience knows exactly what you’re talking about.
Focus On The Why
Another important point to keep in mind when writing an op-ed is to focus on the why. Your article shouldn’t be about the what — the facts surrounding your subject matter — but rather the deeper, underlying reasons why you feel the way you do. Of course, you should still include the facts as necessary, but you should aim to use them to support your cause. As an example, if you’re writing about climate change and you feel that humans are the cause of climate change, you should probably mention that scientists have attributed climate change to humans. But the fact that science has said this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with or even support the theory. You can still write an op-ed about climate change without having to defend your stance on the issue. However, if you don’t have a deeper reason for writing the piece, then the article doesn’t hold much weight.
Avoid The Politics
Another important factor to keep in mind when writing an op-ed is to avoid the politics. Even though this is a non-political topic, you should still remember that not all newspaper editors are created equal, and some will definitely try to curry favor with the powerful figures that they’re sometimes obligated to cover. In these situations, your editor might try to sneak in a pro- or an anti-something politico piece disguised as a news article. If you have a political axe to grind or your editor insists that you include a political opinion in your article, then you should probably decline the offer. Even if you feel strongly about your topic, you shouldn’t give in to the editor’s blackmail — not unless you want to end up on the wrong side of journalism history. Remember: ethics in journalism mean that journalists should be unbiased and should not take sides on political issues.
Use Proper Grammar
Finally, you should always use proper grammar and spelling when writing an op-ed. As a rule of thumb, if you’re using more than three or four “big words” in your article, then you’re probably overusing them. For example, instead of saying “I feel that…” you could say “My belief is that…” or “In my opinion,” instead of “umm” or “like” in contractions. Proper grammar is also important because it shows that you’re trying to be thoughtful and write with as much original content as possible. If you have an editor that doesn’t trust your grammar, then they might think that you’re trying to hide something, or at least that you don’t know how to write properly. Always proofread your work before submitting it and correct any mistakes as soon as possible. The last thing that you want is to have your op-ed published and then find out that there are numerous errors that you’ve overlooked.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to make the most of your op-eds. Remember: the world is a big place and there are many different audiences out there that all have different needs. So, even if you decide to write an op-ed, you shouldn’t feel like you have to tailor your content to fit within the constraints of a narrow niche. Instead, you should write for the widest audience possible and let the chips fall where they may.