Writing an Effective Op-Ed Column


Faculty and staff at UNCG comprise an enormous array of opinion and expertise on topics in the news, whether local, national or international. While faculty and staff are often called on for interviews, occasionally certain events in the news may prompt them to write an opinion column, known popularly as an “op-ed.” Such articles are submitted to a newspaper’s Editorial Page editor.

Effective opinion pieces should:
• Be written for a general audience.
• Have an opinion, pro or con, based on your research or factual, first-hand information.
• Focus on and develop one or more relevant ideas.
• Open with a to-the-point first paragraph that focuses on and encapsulates the issue.
• Use simple, direct language, vigorous verbs and (relatively) small words.
• Avoid jargon, clichés and excessive terminology.
• Be timely, thoughtful or controversial, but not outrageous.
• Be personal, if it helps to make your point.
• Be humorous, if the topic lends itself to humor.
• Have a clear viewpoint and come down on one side of the issue.
• Focus on your position or call to action. Don’t philosophize.
• Have arguments that are supported by facts to make the case.
• Educate the reader, ultimately, by providing understanding and insight.
• Be typed, double-spaced, and no more than 600 to 750 words in length, and able to be submitted electronically.
• Include a portrait and a parenthetical last paragraph with your name, title or academic rank, office, discipline or department, name of your institution, and 1-2 recent book titles if they apply to the subject of your op-ed piece.