Resource Library: Op-Eds


“And Now a Word from Op-Ed” by New York Times Opinion Page Editor David Shipley. Good article on what they are looking for in submitted opinion pieces (online at

“Op-ed, explained”—similar-type article from the Los Angeles Times. (online at,0,82791.story )

Faculty Voices (sampling of SU faculty op-eds):

Op-ed Writing Tips from SU News Services

Q: What is an op-ed?

A: An op-ed, or opinion piece, is a written expression of an individual’s or group’s opinion on a matter of public interest. Op-eds bring local, national and world events into perspective for readers and commonly offer a recommendation or solution to a controversy or problem. Op-eds appear opposite the editorial page in most newspapers and can be serious, satirical or light-hearted. Generally about 600-900 words, op-eds present a single, clear point of view, not objective discussion of both sides of an issue. Op-eds are written to grab the attention of various groups — such as legislators, opinion leaders, business owners, or the community-at-large — and urge them to consider or take action on an issue. Newspaper editors select opinion pieces for publication based on interest to readers, quality of writing, originality of thought, timeliness, and freshness of viewpoint. Additionally, consideration is given to the number of articles already published on the topic, the strength of the argument and the writer’s expertise on the issue. Magazines and radio stations/networks also offer opportunities for commentary. These editorial pieces usually require a longer lead time than newspaper op-eds.

Q: Why write an op-ed?

A: The primary purpose of writing an op-ed is to draw the public’s attention to an important issue that requires action. But there are additional benefits, such as:

  • Establishing the writer as an expert on a particular topic.
  • Gaining national media recognition for the writer’s organization. Op-eds written by Syracuse University faculty and staff help demonstrate this institution’s active participation and interest in national issues.
  • Capturing the attention of local and national opinion leaders, academic colleagues, print and broadcast media, family and friends.
  • Presenting new research or information or promoting an upcoming book.

Q: How do I choose a topic?

A: Op-ed writers seeking placement in general-circulation newspapers need to answer two questions: “Why should readers care?” and, more importantly, “Why should they care right now?” Editors at major newspapers and magazines receive hundreds of op-ed submissions each week. Because it typically takes 24 hours for an op-ed editor to review a piece, and another two to four days for editing and publication, the topic must have staying power. Many op-eds accepted for publication offer an opinion in advance of a major event, legal or political decision, anniversary or news topic that will likely interest a large audience or create a national debate. Identifying and taking advantage of these opportunities increases the chances for placement.

Q: What are the keys to a strong op-ed?

  • The subject is timely and newsworthy.
  • The first paragraph grabs readers, draws them in, and clearly states an opinion.
  • The piece is focused on one idea and expresses an opinion supported by facts. Statistics and facts presented are accurate and from a reputable source.
  • The writer offers a provocative perspective — perhaps one that is contrary to prevailing opinion.
  • The writing is powerful and appeals to a general audience with short words and verbs. It avoids jargon, cliches, textbook language, and overused adjectives and adverbs.
  • The last paragraph has “punch” and leaves a lasting impression.

Q: Who can help me write and place an op-ed?

A: The Office of University Communications encourages members of the University community to write op-eds and offers editorial services to assist in getting them published. The office will review and edit drafts, offer ideas to sharpen and format arguments, provide suggestions for placement, query national op-ed editors on the writer’s behalf, and follow up as necessary. University Communications also provides op-eds to SU Magazine for consideration in upcoming issues, and op-eds appear in the “Faculty Voices” section of the Syracuse University News web site. For assistance in writing or placing an op-ed, call 443-9038 or e-mail For other media assistance or for general information, call 443-3784 or e-mail