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Op-ed writing tips

An op-ed is an opinion piece that presents an informed view on a newsworthy topic, emphasizing the author's insight and unique expertise. They are opinion pieces but facts, statistics and anecdotes help to shore up the argument and lend colour. The op-ed page of a newspaper (literally, opposite the editorial page) is usually a mix of regular columnists and guest opinion pieces. Faculty members write op-eds to clarify or correct, to provide expert commentary that isn't offered elsewhere, or to call for further action. No more than one subject should be addressed and topics of social, cultural or political interest are especially welcome. Op-eds are not letters to the editor and should not be written in that style. The ideal length for an op-ed piece is 800-900 words.

The style of an op-ed should be lively and provocative, with a clear message and a transparent structure. Reading an op-ed should not be hard work for the general public. Both boilerplate jargon and hyperbolic, righteous indignation should be avoided; strong, colourful language and a memorable phrase or two will catch the editor's attention and lend support to the argument presented. The person in charge of the op-ed page looks for clarity, brevity and newsworthiness, as well as controversy. Intelligent, contrarian views expressed in a unique voice tend to receive a positive response.

McGill professors have an excellent reputation for producing timely, well-written and authoritative op-eds that reflect the University's broad range of expertise on matters of social, political and economic import, both in Canada and internationally. The Media Relations Office regularly consults on, edits and places op-eds for faculty members.

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