PR Tips | The nuts and bolts of basic op-eds

PR Tips | The nuts and bolts of basic op-eds


Op-ed writing is a mix of art and science. As with any form of writing, the art comes with practice — and lots of it. The science, on the other hand, can be learned. Here are a few of the basics.

First, virtually all op-eds are 800 words or less. Seven hundred words is even better. You can’t solve all the world’s problems in 700-800 words — but that’s all most newspapers have space for. Further, many readers may not make it through many more words than 800.

Second, every op-ed should start off with an interesting lede. Newspapers are in the business of, well, news, so a timely opener to your piece — one that positions it within the context of what’s going on in the news world — is usually best.

But make sure that your news peg is legitimate. Most editors will not find the start of National Employee Wellness Month newsworthy enough to command a prominent spot on the op-ed page.

If there’s no obvious news peg, then grab the editor’s attention with an arresting opener. Start with a pithy, biting one-liner that the editor can’t help but read beyond.

Next stop, your thesis — the main argument you’ll be making in your piece. Get there as soon as you can — no later than paragraph four is a good rule of thumb.

Then it’s on to the body of the piece, where you’ll need evidence — statistics, facts, figures, and the like — to substantiate your thesis. One final recommendation on this front — make sure that your paragraphs are all six lines or less on the standard Microsoft Word screen.

Short paragraphs are easier to read than long ones.

(See what I did there?)

And as for your conclusion, it’s often wise to nod at your opener, to close the loop on your piece.

Follow these tips, and you’ll have the basics of op-ed science down. As for the art? Practice makes perfect. And if you find yourself in a bind, we at Keybridge are just a phone call away.


Robby Schrum