Write an Op-ed (For You or Your Client)
And Raise the Odds of Getting It Published
Four facts and a special offer.
Editors look for a connection to a topic already in the news. Raising something out of the blue is usually a sign that the writer is peddling a personal interest—an advertisement, really—instead of making a contribution to public debate. Smart op-ed writers lead with a news peg.
Rule #1: Don't write your op-ed for the people who read the paper. Write for the editor of the op-ed page.
That person is the only barrier between you and getting published -- no one else, no other thing, ever. If you can’t get past the gatekeeper, all your planning for "appealing to the reader" won’t matter because the reader will never see it.
With that in mind, here are four facts you need to know to get the approval of the op-ed page editor:
Editors need to know quickly what the piece is about. A 750-word piece whose big idea doesn’t pop up until you're halfway through tells the editor that the piece is wordy, unfocused, or both, and likely not worth publishing.
Editors demand structure. Clear organization—claims followed by evidence—shows that a writer knows how to organize information in a way that readers will want to follow.
Editors expect you to make a fact-driven case that leads readers to a conclusion. Make people feel the value of your argument by presenting facts that promote such a feeling; do this by making clear the connection between cause and effect. Build a case, and don't declare that one thing “clearly proves” something else. The reader will be the judge of that, not you.
You can learn how to apply these ideas in my new course, How to Write the Op-ed and Get It Published.
You receive nearly 90 minutes of instruction in a series of short videos, each of which takes you step by step through writing, polishing, and pitching a professional op-ed suitable for publication. This is the method I teach in the graduate PR program at Georgetown University and in seminars around the world. My students and I have used this approach to get published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, and more.
In Part I, I'll show you how to
In Part II, I'll get you over the finish line. You'll learn how to
- select a timely topic and state it in language that gets attention,
- write a compelling first paragraph (in the form of a peg, problem, and promise) to show an editor that you know how to write for publication, and
- present your ideas so that readers want to keep reading.
- construct arguments that make readers engage with your ideas,
- find, test, and arrange evidence to maximize persuasive value, and
- write a short, pointed closing that confronts readers with a clear choice.
You have to impress just one person, the editor of the op-ed page.
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