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How to Write an Op-Ed

An opinion editorial (or op ed, or op-ed) is a little bit different than a letter to the editor, in that it is written more like an essay.

An op-ed is usually submitted by someone who is well known, e.g. a former governor, or someone who has a particular connection to the issue being discussed even if they are not well known, e.g. a patient who is terminally ill.

The person whose name is on the op-ed does not necessarily need to write it themselves, but it should be in their own voice and should always be approved by them before it is submitted. One easy way to get an op ed drafted is to interview the “author” using the format below and transcribe their answers, then edit that draft down to a crisply written piece.

The final product should be 400-600 words, though many media outlets have a specific word count limit that can be as high as 800 words.

Structure of an Op-Ed


Submit your own headline with the op-ed, otherwise the editor will choose a headline that highlights the conflict on the issue. Your headline won’t always be used, but you have a much better chance if you submit one.

By Line

Include the author’s name and title if they have one. Also a very short bio sentence (no more than 20 words).

Thesis Statement

Begin your op-ed with a strong statement of opinion, so people know where you are coming from right from the start. You can also start with a very brief story that leads into the thesis statement.


Follow up with the reason you/the author has this particular opinion.


Add one or two brief facts to support the presented opinion. Be sure to keep it very brief, perhaps one or two sentences in a paragraph.


The final paragraph should re-iterate your/the author’s opinion and reason(s) for having that opinion. It can also include encouragement for others to take an action, e.g. voters to vote a certain way, governor to support a bill, etc.