What Is an Op-Ed Article?

Definition & Examples of an Op-Ed Article and How to Write One

Close up of man's hands as he writes an op ed on a typewriter.

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An opinion piece was traditionally published in print media opposite the editorial page (hence the term "op-ed"). These articles generally come from an author not affiliated with the media publisher and are used to publish an opinion that is meant to create thought and discussion among readers.

Sometimes people or organizations in positions of influence, respect, social status, or expertise need assistance writing and effectively communicating their educated opinions. Often, they turn to freelance writers for assistance.

What Is an Op-Ed?

Generally, op-eds are used to reflect opinions of an author or group. They are usually longer than a regular letter to the editor, often being written by a subject matter expert or otherwise notable person with the qualifications to have an opinion (or written by someone else for them).

A freelancer will sometimes be used as a ghostwriter—writing using someone else's byline. Additionally, public relations firms often write these articles, in attempts to forward an agenda. The op-ed is then published in a spot where it will be noticed, either in the traditional spot opposite the editorial in printed media, or somewhere on a website where viewers will see it.

These opinion pieces are relevant articles written to address popular or unknown issues, or in response to opinions expressed elsewhere.

Often, a biographical paragraph or two accompanies the piece to lend credence to it and the author. Sometimes, a photo of the author accompanies the piece in the biography portion.

If you are a freelance writer and have found a client who needs an op-ed written, there are a few key concepts you should use when submitting an opinion article. You'll have to be clear on the opinion, know how to hook the readers, understand the audience, back up the opinion with facts, follow any formatting rules, and give the readers a call to action.

How to Write an Op-Ed

The client will generally dictate the opinion for you, and give you the main points they would like to have covered. You may have written for them for a long time and are familiar with their opinions—it still helps to be sure that you understand their goals and thoughts on the issues, as opinions and outlooks can change over time.

Own the Opinion

When you are given someone else's opinion to write about, it can be difficult to agree with it. One problem ghostwriters have is not agreeing with a topic they are writing about which can cause problems writing an effective piece. You want to assume an adopting role of the opinion until the work is finished, which can allow you to write better for the entity you are creating content for.

Know what the desired effect of the op-ed is—whether it be a call to action, or a call for further thought. This will give you an idea of how you can sway or reinforce the reader's thoughts on the topic.

Start With a Hook

Your reader is going to make a decision within the first few sentences whether or not the piece is worth reading. It's a good idea to start by introducing the issue along with a story that personalizes it. Be brief and make sure the hook is relevant to the issue. For example, if you have witnessed a violent crime, and the op-ed supports measures to reduce crimes, you could briefly tell a story about it to make it relatable.

Aim Correctly

Be familiar with theaudience—think of who reads the medium the article will be published on, and who reads about the issue you're addressing. This might assist you in making decisions about the kinds of words you use (e. g., technical terms or jargon), or what kinds of stories you tell.

Avoid industry-speak and jargon to reduce topic confusion and audience limitation. Explain concepts to broaden the understanding for readers that are not industry experts.

Back It Up

Opinions need evidence and support. Generally, data and statistics are used to reinforce the points being made. Historical facts and figures can be used to help bolster the case being made as well.

Follow the Formatting Rules

It's important to follow the style guidelines and word count given by the publication the piece is going to be published in. This reduces the amount of editing that may be needed to get the article up to par and reduces the time spent going back and forth between you, your client, and their publisher.

End With Action

Don't leave your readers wondering what comes next, or what they can do about a particular issue. You should leave them with a call to action, and give them some actions they can take. For example, if the issue is supported by candidates running for office, you might tell your readers to cast their votes for the candidate in their district that reflects the opinion in the article.

Key Takeaways

  • Op-eds are opinion based articles.
  • These pieces are sometimes contracted out to freelancers for ghostwriting.
  • Op-eds should be backed with facts, figures, and statistics to be credible.