How to Write Effective Op-Eds and Letters

Here are some tips on how to write effective op-eds and letters to the editor.

  • Title must be short and grab attention – but expect that editors may change it.
  • Put the heart of the argument in the first few sentences, even if you are going to then tell a brief story to get folks reading further.
  • In most publication settings now, there’s a tag line group of some sort – give some thought to what is currently trending on Twitter and other social media and be sure to use some of those terms.
  • Be brief.  Write two missives if you need to, rather than running long.  Most writing is now read on smartphones.  It’s hard to get folks to read to the end of anything longer than a couple hundred words.  Newspapers and professional-audience blogs will have guidelines that you can find on-line.  
  • Be sure to call for an action – call for raising the issues with an organization or with your Congressional or local representatives, for example.  You could even say, “Talk with your friends and family!”
  • Send your writing more than once, to more than one outlet – even if you don’t get published the first time, or at all, the editors will begin to realize that this is a rising issue and begin to pay attention.

More focused advice is available:

from Nicholas Kristof https://www.hks.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Academic%20Dean’s%20Office/communications_program/workshop-materials/ho_kristof_oped_10_16_17.pdf?campaign_id=39&emc=edit_ty_20220506&instance_id=60596&nl=opinion-today&regi_id=69021758&segment_id=91451&te=1&user_id=2823b860e971a3cb629533a386bebdda

and from Bret Stephens https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/opinion/tips-for-aspiring-op-ed-writers.html?campaign_id=39&emc=edit_ty_20220506&instance_id=60596&nl=opinion-today&regi_id=69021758&segment_id=91451&te=1&user_id=2823b860e971a3cb629533a386bebdda

Author: Dr. Joanne Lynn

Dr. Lynn is a geriatrician and hospice physician doing advocacy and research to improve eldercare. She encourages better financing models for long-term care and demonstration projects to improve eldercare in communities. Dr. Lynn has published over 300 peer-reviewed medical research and policy articles.

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