Tips on writing op-eds

Get your opinion out there

Op-eds are opinion articles, typically about 500 to 750 words in length. Most newspapers print these articles on the pages opposite their editorial page—hence the name. Check out a sample op-ed and helpful writing tips below.

Some tips about op-eds:

  • Op-eds should emphasize the writer's opinion or experience and be of interest to the general public.
  • Opinion page editors look for op-eds that advance the public discussion of an issue, that are interesting and compelling, and that come from interesting authors.
  • Don't go over 750 words. Op-ed editors have so many articles submitted for their consideration that if you can't make your point in 750 words, they can afford to wait for someone who can!
  • After you know what you want to write, you can call the op-ed editor to "pitch" the article to him or her. The discussion might reshape your op-ed idea somewhat, but will make it more likely to be printed. Don't be discouraged if the op-ed editor tells you they can't promise to print it. They can't, and it's their job to tell you so.
  • Include a cover letter when you submit the op-ed to the editor. It should summarize the key points in one paragraph. Be sure your name and phone number are in the letter.
  • Submit the op-ed by email or fax, depending on the editor's preference.
  • Three or four days later, if you have not already heard back, call to see if the op-ed editor has had a chance to review the piece and decide its fate. If the newspaper rejects the op-ed, don't be discouraged. If there is another newspaper, daily or weekly, you are free to submit it to that paper. However, under no circumstances should you submit an op-ed to two newspapers in the same market at the same time. Newspapers deserve and will demand a "market exclusive" for an op-ed. Submit it to one outlet and, if they turn it down, move on to the next.

Sample Op-Ed: 

Afterschool Programs Help Children Learn and Grow

By [your name]

If you were to walk by a school in the afternoon as the bell rang, it might be natural to think that the learning day is done. School buses are filling up and pulling away. Students are walking toward home with their friends. For a brief moment their thoughts have turned away from the book they’re reading or the math homework they have.

But we know that learning is never truly over, and high-quality afterschool programs are a critical part of education, one kids don’t get anywhere else. These programs get kids excited about learning, help them develop critical skills, and stay on track for a bright and successful future. Studies show that kids in afterschool attend school more, get better grades, and are more likely to graduate.

Afterschool programs are essential for [STATE] children and families but right now too many kids are missing out. In fact, for every child in an afterschool program here in [STATE], two are waiting to get in. Our state policymakers in [CAPITAL] and our representatives in Congress must do all they can to make sure every child who wants to can participate in an afterschool program.

[The next section should contain a story to help illustrate the value of afterschool and the need to improve access. The story should emphasize how afterschool programs support learning and give kids opportunities to explore their passions and possible career paths. It could be a profile of a student who did better in school because of their afterschool program, or it could highlight a local afterschool program that is doing something interesting to support student engagement and achievement. The story should take up no more than two to three short paragraphs.]

This story shows how high-quality afterschool programs let kids explore, express themselves, connect and have fun. Programs can inspire interest in growing fields like STEM and help kids build skills like teamwork, communications, and critical thinking. These are skills they’ll use every day and skills that will help them land their first job.

But afterschool doesn’t just work for students. It’s a lifeline for parents too. When parents have afterschool choices, they don’t have to coordinate rides or juggle daily schedule changes. They can work a full day without having to worry about what their children are doing when school lets out.

They know their kids are with caring adults, they’re having fun, they’re learning and trying new things. They know their kids are getting physical activity, aren’t sitting in front of a screen, and are getting help with their homework. Most importantly, their child is safe, protected from risky behaviors both online and offline.

Afterschool helps children learn and grow, and is a huge support to parents. Every child deserves a program like [name of child from story]. Unfortunately, too many families are unable to take advantage of the benefits afterschool provides. We’re leaving those kids behind.

We need leaders at all levels to step up. Afterschool is a critical support for our children and families. [We encourage you to add a few sentences describing a state-specific call to action here. Who do you want to prompt, and what do you want them to do?]

As parents and leaders, our most important job is ensuring that we give our children—all children—opportunity to achieve their full potential and build a successful future. Afterschool programs are one of the best ways to do that.

[If possible, refer back to the story here. For instance: Kids like XXX benefit from afterschool programs. Parents like YYY want them. If that doesn’t work, a general reference will do.] Children benefit from these programs. Parents rely on them. And communities across [STATE] need more of them—we cannot let them down.

 

Afterschool Programs Keep Kids Safe

By [your name]

During the week, students spend more waking hours at school than just about anywhere else. Between about seven hours at school, hopefully eight hours of sleep, and time at home for breakfast and dinner, it might not seem like there’s much more room in a student’s day. But those afterschool hours, from 3pm to 6pm, are critical.

Afterschool programs are essential for [STATE] children and families. Juvenile crime peaks during this window—and today, more than [XXX] youth statewide are alone and unsupervised during those hours. In our current climate, this is both dangerous and unacceptable. [If possible, change this sentence to reflect specific, urgent local or state challenge, such as youth crime, drug use, etc.]

Afterschool is a critical strategy for addressing this [challenge, crisis, epidemic]. These programs provide kids with a safe haven and help protect them from risky behaviors, both online and offline.

Kids in afterschool are less likely to smoke, drink, use drugs, or become teen parents. They connect with caring adults who won’t let them slip through the cracks.

Study after study shows that high-quality afterschool programs keep kids on track for success—in school, college, careers, and beyond. Our state policymakers in [CAPITAL] and our representatives in Congress must do all they can to make sure every child and family who wants an afterschool program has that opportunity. 

[The next section should contain a story to help illustrate the value of afterschool and the need to improve access. To continue the main message theme, the story should emphasize how afterschool programs keep students safe. It could be a profile of a student who avoided trouble with drugs or a gang because he or she participated in afterschool. Or it could highlight a local afterschool program that is doing something interesting to keep students safe and engaged with positive role models. The story should take up no more than two to three short paragraphs.]

Every parent in [STATE] wants their child to be safe after school, just like [CHILD from the story] is. But the benefits of afterschool extend far beyond safety—families rely on them too.

When parents have afterschool choices for their children, they don’t have to worry about what their children are doing or coordinate rides for them. They know their kids are with caring adults, learning, trying new things, and having fun. They’re getting time for physical activity and help with their homework. Across [STATE], [XX] percent of parents say afterschool programs help them keep their jobs.

Unfortunately, too many families are unable to take advantage of the benefits afterschool provides. Right now, more than [XXXXXXX] students in [STATE] participate in an afterschool program. But more than [XXXX] are waiting to get in. We’re leaving those kids behind.

As parents and adults, our most important job is ensuring that we give our children—all children—the opportunity to achieve their full potential and build a successful future. Afterschool programs are one of the best ways to do that. [Ideally you can add a few sentences as a more state specific call to action in this section. Who do you want to take action, and what do you want them to do?]

[If possible, refer back to the story here. For instance: Kids like XXX benefit from afterschool programs. Parents like YYY want them. If that doesn’t work, a general reference will do:] Children benefit from these programs. Parents rely on them. And communities across [STATE] need more of them—we cannot let them down.

 

Afterschool Programs Support Parents

By [your name]

Parents are busier than ever. Families are more likely to have two working parents than they were a generation ago. Commutes are longer. Many parents are working two or three jobs—or going back to school—to provide for their children.

Afterschool is a lifeline for these and many other families across [STATE]. 

Afterschool programs give parents peace of mind and keep them from worrying about what their kids are doing when school lets out. Parents don’t have coordinate rides or juggle daily schedule changes. They know their kids are with caring adults, they’re engaged, learning and having fun. They’re getting time for physical activity, help with their homework and inspiration about future career paths. 

What happens when parents don’t have afterschool choices? Parental concerns about afterschool results in lost productivity at work, costing U.S. businesses up to $300 billion annually. And here in  [STATE], XX percent of parents say afterschool programs help them keep their jobs.

In short, high-quality afterschool programs in [STATE] are a fundamental part of helping parents balance work and life. We, including our state policymakers in [CAPITAL] and our representation in Congress, must do all we can to make sure every child and family who wants afterschool is able to participate.

[The next section should contain a story to help illustrate the value of afterschool and the need to improve access. The story should emphasize how afterschool programs support parents. It could be a profile of a parent or family who benefited from having their child participate in afterschool. Or it could highlight a local afterschool program that is doing something interesting to support the parents and families of the children who participate. If the writer is a parent and has a child or children in afterschool, their personal story would be best. The story should take up no more than two to three short paragraphs.]

This is just one example of how afterschool is a lifeline for [STATE’s] parents.

[STATE] parents also know that afterschool is a safe haven for their kids. It helps young people avoid risky behaviors, online and offline, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. This is the time of day when juvenile crime peaks and more than XX youth in [STATE] are alone and unsupervised.

Unfortunately, too many families are unable to take advantage of the benefits afterschool provides. Right now, more than XXXX students in [STATE] participate in an afterschool program. But over XXXX are waiting to get in. We’re leaving those kids behind.

We need leaders at all levels to step up. Afterschool is a critical support for our children, families, and employers. [Please feel free to include a more state specific call to action in this section. Who do you want to take action, and what do you want them to do?]

As parents and leaders, our most important job is ensuring that we give our children—all children—opportunity to achieve their full potential and build a successful future. Afterschool programs are one of the best ways to do that.

 [If possible, refer back to the story here. For instance: Kids like XXX benefit from afterschool programs. Parents like YYY want them. If that doesn’t work, a general reference will do:] Children benefit from these programs. Parents rely on them. And communities across [STATE] need more of them—we cannot let them down.