Op-Ed and Letter to the Editor Guidelines

Some helpful guidelines and suggestions

1. Op-ed articles and letters should express an opinion. Don’t just analyze and issue; editors want to see fresh viewpoints.

2. Don’t be concerned that others may have better credentials to address a topic. It’s your knowledge and  fresh approach that will engage an editor.

3. Some general advice:

  • Read some op-ed articles and letters to get a sense of their structure. For most venues, the op-ed you write should be about 600 to 800 words. A letter to the editor can be as short as one sentence or a paragraph.
  • Make your point in an interesting way, then support your statement with statistics, anecdotes, results of studies, etc. It is not enough to simply state a point of view; it must also be supported by logical argument.
  • Write tightly, simply, clearly. Avoid jargon. Don’t try to explore every point. Focus on the point you feel is most interesting or important.
  • Try humor, if the piece lends itself to humor. Don’t be afraid to be personal if it helps make the point. Don’t be afraid to be controversial, but don’t be outrageous. Be firm but not fanatical.
  • End with a solution or approach to the problem or issue.

4. Ask the Bates Communications and Marketing Office for editing help: You can choose to accept or reject suggestions.

5. At the end of the op-ed or letter, briefly list your credentials to comment on a given subject. If you have written a book or lectured on the subject, say so. If a committee membership is pertinent, list it. Include telephone numbers and places you can be reached to discuss your comments.

6. When writing on a topic relevant to your academic credentials, please follow your name with your position at Bates College.

7. We can’t guarantee that your submission will be used, but you can be sure that every effort will be made to place it. A succinct letter usually has a higher chance of placement because of limited space. It is usually important to write your piece while an issue is current, but be patient if your article is submitted to a series of periodicals.