Write an Effective Op-Ed

An Op-ed is short for “opposite the editorial page” and is an opinion piece written by a member of the public that is published in a newspaper. It is slightly different than a letter to the editor in that it is typically longer and is not necessarily in response to a previously published article.

Tips for writing a good op-ed:

  • It’s all about timing. keep your eye on local news, as well as on action alerts and messages sent out by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, its member organizations and partners so that you can submit an op-ed that coincides with legislative action on Capitol Hill. Anniversaries and special events can also provide important hooks.
  • Be succinct. Most op-eds average between 600 and 750 words (or three double-spaced typewritten pages). Given the limited amount of words you can use to make your case, it is important to focus on a specific food or farm policy or issue.
  • Answer “so what?” Show your readers how the issue impacts their life and why now is the time to act.
  • Don’t be afraid of statistics. Useful information and data used in a precise manner can advance your argument.
  • Provide solutions. Tell your reader how the situation can be resolved or advanced by providing them with key legislation or tools.
  • Be personal. It’s an opinion piece, so use your personal voice. For example, “I live a mile downstream from a 5,000-head dairy farm, and it stinks…”

When submitting an op-ed, be sure to include a suggested headline, a by-line (your name), and a one-sentence identification that describes your expertise as the author. Always include your full name, address (or organization’s address), day and evening phone numbers, and email address. Look at the editorial page of your local newspaper for guidelines about op-ed length and the address to send your submission to.