The Gong Blog

The art of the opinion


So, you have an opinion. 

Placing that opinion, often called an Op/Ed (which originally meant opposite to the editorial page in a newspaper), is easier said than done, as I wrote a while back. Consider that the New York Times receives about 2,000 submissions per week. That’s right, several hundred a day. My guess is that the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post are about the same. 

Here are five steps to consider to improve the chances of your opinion seeing the light of day (you can also download a PDF of these tips to print or share).

  • Pieces should be 750-800 words, not including your headline, byline or “about” line at end of piece. It may vary a little by publication. Editors shouldn’t be expected to edit 1,500 words down to fit space…they’ll likely spike it.
  • Grab the reader in the first two or three paragraphs. Make your main point quickly, and support that takeaway the rest of the piece.
  • Be concise. Short paragraphs are encouraged. Avoid overly-long and comma-filled sentences. Don’t forget to mix in a few transitions.
  • Be knowledgeable and understandable. Avoid jargon and making the average reader (think of your parents or friends of your parents reading the piece) go to the dictionary/thesaurus every sentence (a couple times is OK!). 
  • The KISS principle, no, not Gene Simmons. One of my dad’s favorites, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Establish your point of view, and guide your reader through a clear start, middle and finish. Then, “Stay on target” (another of Dad’s favorites).

Opinions can be a valuable way to demonstrate expertise while controlling your message at the same time. But they take time and a little bit of practice to do them well.

Happy writing!

Download the Op-Ed Quick Start Guide

(Image by Pete O'Shea on Flickr)

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