Writing an Op-ed

Opinion editorials can be a great way to inform community members about an issue and your call to action. Newspapers will often run pieces written by grassroots activists, especially if the article is well-written, timely, and has a local angle. However, you should check with your newspaper before submitting your editorial, as different papers often have different guidelines for editorial submissions from community members.

Here are a few tips for writing your editorial:

  • Keep it short. Most papers will only run editorials of fewer than 750 words.
  • Make it locally relevant. The more you connect your editorial to a community event or development on the issue, the better. Newspapers publish information they believe is pertinent to their readers, so your op-ed is more likely to be published when it is tied to a current, local event or targets local leaders (for example, when it responds to the actions—or lack thereof—of your member of Congress). Often lobbying efforts, legislative developments, or breakthroughs in peace talks are interesting to newspapers only if there is a local connection to the issue.
  • Make it personal. While your op-ed should include facts about the issue, it should also reflect your personality. The best editorials explain why the subject is relevant to both the writer and the reader. Tell your own story and why you care about the issue you are campaigning for.
  • Make it action-oriented. Include information on how readers can get involved. If you’re writing an op-ed near the time that the lobbying visits are taking place, make sure your editorial includes information on how readers can join your efforts. Editors are unlikely to include a Web site or call to action in the body of your article. However, you should include a Web site in your biography at the end of your op-ed. You can also encourage your readers to write their member of Congress.

Don’t forget to include your contact information. Newspapers need to know how to reach you if they’re going to run your editorial.

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