Have you seen news coverage/opinion pieces on the Sanders bill or single payer in general that mischaracterize the issue, fearmonger about taxes, rationing, etc., or otherwise perpetuate myths about single payer? Newspapers are listening: write them an Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor!
When to write an Op-Ed vs. a Letter to the Editor
Letters to the editor are :
- usually written in direct response to an article, editorial, op-ed, or column that the target paper has printed, or a reaction to a newsworthy event
- are short – 150 words or less – and can be summarized in 1 or 2 points, succinctly stated
- timely and relevant to news that’s at most 2 days old
Op-eds (or “opposite editorial”):
- are longer-form pieces – typically 500 -750 words – that can take the form of feature articles, commentary, or opinion and flesh out a bold or interesting stance (i.e., single payer is fiscally responsible, single payer is popular with the Republican base, etc.)
- are more likely to be published if the author has credibility/expertise on the issue, or is making their case through a powerful personal story
- will be relevant not only today but also for the next few weeks (op-eds have a longer lead time before publishing)
- will require actively pitching your piece to editors
***Letters to the editor are also more likely to get published than an op-ed and can be published in a quicker turnaround than an op-ed.
Letter to the Editor Guidelines
Many papers provide guidelines for submitting a LTE, which should be checked before putting pen to paper. Here’s a few more style suggestions:
- Focus on one important point; don’t try to address separate issues in one letter.
- Maximize your chance of being published by removing every non-essential word. For example, don’t say, “I think…”
- Don’t use all capital letters or bold text to emphasize a word.
- Use local statistics if writing to a local/regional paper
- Write boldly and provacatively
- Identify the counterargument and refute with facts
- Educate without preaching
- Avoid clichés, technical jargon, and acronymns
- NYTimes Tips for Aspiring Op-ed Writers
- Harvard Kennedy Communications School’s “How to Write an Op-Ed”
- Before writing, check the guidelines of the paper(s) to which you’ll submit your piece. Each paper has its own word count, style preferences, and submission protocol.
- Send all your contact info with the piece.
- For Op-Eds, submit your piece to one paper at a time.