Writing Opinion Columns (Op-Eds)

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This training discusses the process of writing an op-ed, how to submit an op-ed to your local print media outlet; and different approaches or angles one could take.

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TOC and Guide Section
Planning your Op-ed

Publishing an opinion column (“op-ed”) grabs the attention of members of Congress and their staff, while highlighting climate advocacy and climate solutions to a wide audience. People across the political spectrum can be influenced by op-eds.

Use a CCL Op-Ed Template or Outline

Take a look at CCL's current op-ed templates and outlines. CCL's op-ed templates can be customized to where you live and the particular climate change challenges you face. The op-ed outlines provide a guide to writing an original op-ed about a particular theme such as climate grief or weather extremes. 

You could also write something completely new and unique!

Choose a topic 

Op-eds should relate to something that’s in the news, ideally with a local angle. The topic can be about a recent report, a disaster that is connected to climate change, or an event such as Earth Day. Think about what timely topics you've seen in the news that relate to climate change. What should be in the news?
You could write about why you are passionate about climate change action and how climate change impacts your life and the lives of local people. Think about what local perspectives could be persuasive to your member of Congress.

Writing your Op-ed
  • Start strong. You have one, maybe two sentences to grab the reader’s attention. Say something provocative, engaging and informative at the very beginning..
  • Stay focused. Introduce your point with a compelling opening paragraph, identify the problem, say how it can be solved and who needs to solve it. Don’t try to say too much. Focus on just getting one or two points across, taking the time to explain them thoroughly. 
  • Make it local. Editors are more likely to accept your piece for publication if you can relate climate change to its impact on your community. Highlight opportunities and tailor your message to your district — are you writing for a more conservative or liberal audience? 
  • Answer the questions. Anticipate and answer questions you think readers might ask. You can even pose them and answer them directly, like “How can we tax carbon without it being an economic burden on families?”
  • Tell a story. What’s the story you’re trying to tell with your piece? Weaving facts and numbers into a larger narrative helps make your piece more interesting and relevant to readers.
  • Call to action. An op-ed gives you a big megaphone to talk to your community. Issue a call to action, such as asking people to contact their member of Congress to support our bill.  Mention your member of Congress by name to improve the chance of your op-ed landing on their desk.
  • End strong. A strong conclusion repeats the main point and circles back to the beginning. If you have a clever turn of phrase, here’s the place to put it.
  • Write a headline. When you submit your op-ed, include a suggested headline. More often than not, they’ll use it. This reduces the risk of a bad headline being written. The headline is the first entry point to your piece, so make it the best it can be.

Ideas and examples

Submitting your Op-ed

Once you’ve written your op-ed, submit it as follows:

  • Go to the opinion page and see if there are instructions for submitting an op-ed. Be sure to adhere to the newspaper’s word limit.
  • Introduce yourself briefly and make a short pitch about why they should publish your piece.
  • If there are no instructions for submitting, send it to the opinion page editor.
  • If you want to submit to multiple papers, make sure they don’t have a policy preventing your from op-ed from being published in other papers.
Sharing your success!
  • Send a thank you email to the opinion page editor.
  • Log it in the CCL Action Tracker.
  • Share the op-ed with your chapter.
  • Post it on your social media.
  • Send a copy of the op-ed with the link to your district’s CCL liaison so they can forward it to your member of Congress.
Press play to start the video (28m 59s)
Video Outline
Skip ahead to the following sections:

Intro & Agenda

Why Write An Op-ed?

Planning Your Op-ed

The Writing Process

Ideas & Examples
  • Charlotte Ward
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (28m 59s)
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Audio Outline
Skip ahead to the following sections:

Intro & Agenda

Why Write An Op-ed?

Planning Your Op-ed

The Writing Process

Ideas & Examples
  • Charlotte Ward
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