Tips for Writing an Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor are generally short pieces, of about 250 words or less, that are in direct response to something recently published in the paper. You should closely monitor the news in your paper and look for opportunities to respond to an article connected to top policy priorities. You should send your letter to the editor as soon as possible after the story to which you are responding is published - preferably the same day. Prepare in advance for this quick response by looking up the submission guidelines for your local news outlets and keeping them on hand. You can use the below template to draft a letter to the editor of your local paper:

Introduction: 25-50 words

"Thank you for your interesting article of [date] titled [ ]. The author reported on [insert a few statements about the content of the article. For example, for an article about transportation funding shortfalls, it may be "the author reported on transportation project delays in our city."]"

Content: 100-150 words

This is where you express either disagreement or something you believe has been left out of the discussion. Using the example above, "We agree that investments in transportation are important to quality of life. What the author has missed is that city leaders have worked to keep these services intact at a time when state and federal investments have declined significantly. For example [refer to specific programs]."

Conclusion/Call to Action: 25-50 words

This portion should include what change you want to see, and who you would like to take action. For example, "We join [name of paper] in seeking to improve the quality of life in our community. We urge residents to be fully informed on the challenges and opportunities of making [ ] a great place to live. Perhaps most importantly, we urge them to get involved."

Op-Eds

Op-eds are slightly longer than letters to the editor; generally they run about 750 words or less. Op-eds do not need to be in response to a specific article in the paper, but they should be timely and in connection to current events. You can increase your op-eds chances of publication by using on these tips:

  • Focus on a single point, and put it at the beginning of your op-ed. 
  • Establish your credibility as a local leader.
  • Use plain language and your personal voice, rather than "academic" language or jargon.
  • Make it personal - be sure to relate your op-ed to the specific value of the policy in your community, rather than dry facts or generalities.
  • End strong, with a call to action for national leaders.