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Op-Ed Writing Tips

Marketing and Communications


Writing an op-ed is a great way for faculty to share ideas and expertise with a wide audience. The following guidelines provide direction to help you write an effective article that will be accepted for publication in local, national, and international news outlets.

Ten tips for writing a compelling op-ed

1. Be timely. If you can relate your area of expertise to timely subject matter or issues that are being discussed in news rooms and around watercoolers, you increase your chance of publication. What is compelling about your topic and how does it contribution to the current conversation? If it relates to recent news developments, say so. 

For an example, read the Winnipeg Press opinion piece, Building more resilient cities after a pandemic by Dr. Jino Distasio.

2. Keep it short. Unlike your typical journal article, op-eds are short, snappy pieces, usually 600-750 words. Read articles in your target outlet and then use a similar word count and style. Cut long paragraphs into two or more shorter ones and reduce unneccessary words.

For example: Dr. Kevin Walby's ope-ed in the Montreal Gazette regarding federal access to information was 667 words).

3. Write a strong lead. You need to hook your reader quickly, so make your point quickly while compelling the reader to learn more.

For example: "Tonight, an increasing number of Canadians face the prospect of sleeping in a tent — not to welcome the summer camping season, but as a last resort," is an engaging opening sentence written by Dr. Jino Distasio in a 2018 Vancouver Sun article that provides perspective on the issue of homelessness.

4. Summarize succinctly. Just as you began with a strong opening paragraph to hook readers, it’s also important to come full circle with a strong final paragraph that ties back to the point you started with. This strategy keeps your op-ed engaging as well as ensuring your perspective is understandable to casual readers who scan the headline, skim the opening and then read the final paragraph and byline.

5. Use simple language. It can be hard to pare down big concepts for non-academic readers, but an op-ed is an opportunity to share knowledge with the general public in a way that makes them understand why they need to care about the work you are doing. Keep your writing conversational rather than formal.

6. Consider alternate opinions. When you back up your argument with solid evidence while at the same time sharing your perspective in a way that acknowledges contrasting points of view, you come across as more credible. 

For an example, read Jason Hannan's Winnipeg Free Press op-ed, No the cows will not save us.

7. Trust your own voice. Unlike journal articles and other academic writing, op-eds are told with your personal voice and perspective. 

8. Avoid jargon. If you don't need to use technical jargon to make your point, don’t. Simple language allows you to impart complex ideas in a way that is accessible to the average reader. You want to write in a way that helps the reader – including those who are not experts in your area – care about the subject. This gives you a better chance of impacting real change. 

9. Use the active voice. Don’t write: “It is hoped that [or: One would hope that] our industry partners will …” Instead, say “I hope our industry will …” Active voice is nearly always better than passive voice. It’s easier to read, and it leaves no doubt about who is doing the hoping, recommending or other action.

10. Include photography. It is a good idea to think ahead about possible illustrations, graphs, photos, or videos that you might include with your article.

Ready to pitch an article idea?  

If you have a particular news outlet in mind, you can often find guidelines about how they prefer to receive op-ed submissions on their website. Always be sure to include your contact information and credentials, and let them know if you have a photo of yourself available. 

Do not send email attachments. It is better to send content within the boyd of your email. Specify Op-ed submission in your email subject line.

Writers whose submissions are being considered for publication will typically be notified within 1-2 weeks of submission. If your piece is accepted, it may be edited or condensed in order to fit the style or space of the publication.

More resources

If you are looking for more resources, the following sites provide advice on writing and pitching op-eds.

How to write an op-ed or column

The Op Ed Project's Writing Tips and Tricks 

Still have questions?

Return to the Faculty Media Resources page, or contact communications@uwinnipeg.ca. Univeristy of Winnipeg communications staff can help connect you with faculty who have successfully published op-eds, as well as providng advice to help you successfully share your story.