Make Your Voice Heard Through Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor

If you are a subject matter expert with an interesting opinion on a timely issue, you may want to consider writing an op-ed or a letter to the editor. Op-eds and letters to the editor can influence public debate and affect policy on the local, state, national, and international levels. Op-eds and letters to the editor sometimes result in significant publicity for the author.

Here are some tips for writing and submitting op-eds and letters to the editor from the ASA Office of Public Affairs and Public Information:

Op-Ed

  • Make a focused, educated argument
    • It is important to hook the reader early
    • Your main point should be in your first paragraph
    • Tell readers why they should care what you are writing about
    • Offer specific recommendations  
    • Make sure your opinion is based on solid research
    • Restate your main point and issue a call to action at the end of your op-ed
      • Your conclusion and your first paragraph are particularly important
    • Appeal to the average reader
      • Remember, the reader is probably not an expert in your topic
  • Writing style is important
    • Use short sentences and paragraphs
      • Sentences should generally be declarative
    • Avoid jargon and clichés
    • Use the active voice
    • Do not “preach”
    • Do not be afraid to use the personal voice
  • Be timely
    • Make sure your op-ed is linked to current events
  • Limit op-eds to 750 words or fewer
    • Newspapers and other publications have space constraints
    • You won’t be able to solve all the world’s problems in your op-ed
  • Submitting your op-ed
    • Most op-eds are submitted via email
      • You can generally find submission information in the online and print versions of a media outlet’s opinion section
    • Include a brief bio, along with your phone number, email address, and mailing address at the bottom of the op-ed
  • Following up
    • Most op-ed editors will respond to you within a week
      • If you haven't received a response by then or if your piece is particularly time-sensitive, you can follow up with an email or a call to ensure the editor received your op-ed and to check on its status

Letters to the Editor

  • Typically written in response to a recent article in a previous edition of the publication
    • Make one clear argument—criticizing or supporting the article
    • Cite the article (title and publication date) in your letter
    • Limit your letter to 150-200 words
  • Submitting your letter
    • Most letters are submitted via email
      • You can generally find submission information in the online and print versions of a media outlet’s opinion section
    • Include your phone number, email address, mailing address, and title, if relevant, at the bottom of the letter
  • Following up
    • Most op-ed editors will respond to you within a week
      • If you haven't received a response by then or if your piece is particularly time-sensitive, you can follow up with an email or a call to ensure the editor received your letter and to check on its status

If you have any questions, please email Daniel Fowler at pubinfo@asanet.org