The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Guide to Writing Op-Eds

PEP Presentation

Writing Opinion Editorials Presentation by Amy Schalet, PhD

Handouts from Presentation

Places to Submit Op-Eds

Examples of Op-Eds 

Tips from the New York Times

Tips from PEP's Op-Ed Panel  

  • Consult the The Op-Ed Project, an excellent resource on writing an submitting op-eds
  • Write in a jargon-free manner, and use teaching skills for non-academic audiences.
  • Check on the space limit (typically 600-800 words).
  • Be willing to work and rework your piece to get it under the word cut-off.
  • It is difficult to place a piece in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, but it is not as difficult in the major regional newspapers, especially with research expertise.
  • Submit a cover letter that explains to the editors why your op-ed is worth printing.
  • Explain how you contribute to an existing debate.
  • One structure that you might follow is the following:

Make one main point.

Provide three examples.

Return to main point.

Additional Tips for Writing and Placing Op-Eds

by Bill McKibben, scholar-in-residence, Environmental Studies Program, Middlebury College

  • Keep it current: Be sure your topic is relevant to current news.
  • Be straightforward: There’s no room for subtlety in an op-ed piece.
  • Keep it short: 600-750 is the word limit; also, use short sentences and short paragraphs, with each one of your paragraphs offering evidence to support your point.
  • Make your point: Preferably in the first paragraph.
  • Provide answers: Consider the questions readers are likely to have, and answer them.
  • Offer anecdotes: Personal stories can help make your point.
  • Present Solutions: Wrap up by recommending fixes for problems you identify.
  • Get it done while the news is fresh: Give yourself one day only to complete your piece.
  • You know best: Use your own area of expertise to hook into the current news topic.
  • Different is good: Humorous asides, unexpected perspectives, quirky approaches are welcome.