Woman writing in notebookEvery day, they help to shape our world. We nod our heads in agreement, or rage at their stupidity. They move the needle on public opinion, provide a handy pool of experts for radio hosts, inspire armchair pundits—even influence politicians.

Written opinion pieces are a powerful tool. At their best, they bring invisible issues to light, add diverse voices, and allow “regular people” (maybe you!) to have their say.

Most newspapers and many websites welcome submissions that are timely, well-written, and well-reasoned, from people who know what they’re talking about. Women must be an equal part of these discussions.

To get started, check out these 10 tips for writing op-eds:

  1. HAVE A CLEAR THESIS – Make sure readers can easily understand what you’re trying to say.
  2. PROVE IT – Support your claims with reliable research, relevant examples, and credible experts.
  3. ANTICIPATE NAYSAYERS – Briefly explain why people might disagree with you—then say why they’re wrong.
  4. BE ORIGINAL – Editors have heard it all before! Give them something fresh: brand new information, a unique perspective, or a surprising approach to a well-worn topic.
  5. START WITH A BANG – You have about five seconds to capture your readers’ interest, so use your best stuff first. People are busy—get them interested right away or they’ll turn the page. Begin with a quick story, arouse their curiosity, or be provocative.
  6. MAKE THEM CARE – What does your topic have to do with your readers? How does it affect them, their families, workplace, or community? What’s at stake if nothing changes?
  7. SPEAK PLAINLY – If a typical 10-year-old can’t follow your argument, neither will your readers. Drop the jargon. Just write it like you’d say it.
  8. SAY IT ONCE – Sometimes people repeat their main points in an attempt to emphasize their importance, but this can be boring. It’s better to present each idea just once, being as clear and vivid as possible.
  9. HELP THEM TO SEE – Use real-life examples, metaphors, and analogies to help readers visualize your message. If your argument is too theoretical, it will be harder for them to grasp the implications of what you’re saying.
  10. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU – Op-eds are not a public relations tool for promoting narrow personal or organizational interests. They’re a forum for insights and analysis into issues that concern the general public, or the readers of a specific publication.

For sample op-eds, tips for speaking out safely, and workshop information, visit Informed Opinions.

Read more about finding your voice in SHE magazine

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