Common characteristics:

• Typically, it is short, between 750 and 800 words

• It has a clearly defined point

• It has a clearly defined perspective

• It represents clarity of thinking

• It contains the strong, unique voice of the writer


Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing an Op-Ed or Column:

• Do I have a clear point to make?

• What is it?

• Who cares? (Writing with a particular audience in mind can inform how you execute your column. Who is it you are trying to convince? Why are you targeting that specific reader?)

• Is there substance to my argument?

Following are links to some online resources related to op-ed and column writing:


  • The Op-Ed Project is a terrific resource for anyone looking to strengthen their op-ed writing. It provides tips on op-ed writing, suggestions about basic op-ed structure, guidelines on how to pitch op-ed pieces to publications, and information about top outlets that publish op-eds. Started as an effort to increase the number of women op-ed writers, The Op-Ed Project also regularly runs daylong seminars around the country.

  • How to Write an Op-Ed Article,” which was prepared by David Jarmul, Duke's associate vice president for news and communications, provides great guidelines on how to write a successful op-ed.


  • How to Write Op-Ed Columns,” which was prepared by The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is another useful guide to writing op-eds. It contains a helpful list of op-ed guidelines for top-circulation newspapers in the U.S.


  • And Now a Word from Op-Ed,” offers some advice on how to think about and write op-eds from the Op-Ed editor of The New York Times.

  • The Harvard Kennedy School Communications Program regularly runs workshops on writing op-eds and columns as well as classes focusing on the topic. You can find out more about these by checking the HKS Communications Program’s website.

    • Slides from one such workshop: “Make Your Point: Keys to Short Persuasive Writing” by Josh Burek Director, Global Communications & Strategy and Adjunct Lecturer, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School