Many advocates love to write opinions or what we call the “op-ed” and it’s easy to see why. Op-ed’s are focused on the opinion of the writer so for an advocate already working on climate change, op-ed’s are the most obvious route one can take.
Why write an op-ed?
According to the Earth Institute, “The opinion pages are among the best-read sections of any publication—often on par with the front page itself. In addition to the general public, some of the most attentive readers of these pages are decision makers in government, corporations, and nonprofit institutions. The opinion pages are one of the best ways for the nonprofessional writer to place an issue in the public eye, or to bring his or her perspective to the news.”
Here are simple basic steps for you:
An op-ed is usually around 600-800 words. 500 words might be too short to flesh out your argument and 900 words will seem too much for your reader. You need to be concise, but you also have to be able to present your arguments well.
Timing is very important. It usually defines whether or not you article will get published. Remember that op-ed’s are published beside the editorial, which is the official voice of the newspaper on current issues or news inside their publication. The op-ed is different because it’s about the views of people outside of the newspaper. So your op-ed has to be relevant.
When you are writing your op-ed, ask yourself, “What do I want to say?” And stick to that. All your arguments in the rest of your article must then go back to and support your main point.
Make sure it’s relevant to your readers. Answer the question, “So what?” What makes your point important? Why will your readers care about what you want to say?
According to the New York Times, “…Op-Ed, in some measure, is shaped by its neighbors (editorial). The Op-Ed editors tend to look for articles that cover subjects and make arguments that have not been articulated elsewhere in the editorial space. If the editorial page, for example, has a forceful, long-held view on a certain topic, we are more inclined to publish an Op-Ed that disagrees with that view. If you open the newspaper and find the editorial page and Op-Ed in lock step agreement or consistently writing on the same subject day after day, then we aren’t doing our job.”
If you have good answers to these questions, you’re on your way to writing a good op-ed.
When you write, don’t write something other people can also write. Write about your personal experience. If you are writing about climate change, write about that person you met whose life is impacted by climate change. Doing this will make your article have its own personality and will be enjoyed more by your readers.
Remember, a good op-ed article is not just about opinions. It is founded on sound arguments by presenting facts and data. What did Earth Institute remind us earlier? A good op-ed is informed and backed by facts—not just emotion or opinion.
So before writing your article, make sure that you have done enough research and that you have enough facts and data to back-up the point you want to make.
Climate change is a technical and scientific issue but using jargons will not help your article. Use language which your neighbor or grandmother will understand. Remember, you are writing an op-ed not for people who already think like you but to a broader public who you want to influence with your opinion.
Here’s a good advice from The Op-Ed Project: “Never underestimate your reader’s intelligence, or overestimate her level of information. Recognize that your average reader is not an expert in your topic, and that the onus is on you to capture her attention – and make the argument compel.”
Download this toolkit in PDF here:
How to Write and Effective Opinion Article