An op-ed (short for “opposite of the editorial page,” which is where opinion columns are placed in most newspapers) is very similar to a letter to the editor. Again, each publication will have its own guidelines, and it is very important to follow them closely. However there are some common best practices for submitting op-eds. As a guide, we have provided the text of an op-ed that ran in the May 28, 2013 Baltimore Sun. (Sample Op-Ed)

  1. Be mindful of length. See the publication guidelines, but for most newspapers, work to keep the word count to about 650.
  2. Have a news hook. As with letters to the editor, op-eds are most interesting when they are in response to something taking place in the community. That could be Arbor Day, Earth Day, a severe weather event that takes out a number of trees, a community tree planting that meets a long-established goal, or even a record-breaking heat wave. The goal is to make the op-ed timely and relevant. In the example we provided, the signing of forestry legislation in the state of Maryland served as our news hook.
  3. Combine local angles with the national Vibrant Cities report. Referencing the Vibrant Cities report and recommendations lends a national perspective to your local efforts, which our experience suggests resonates with an op-ed editor. However, demonstrating the local connection is still key. In our attached example, we have highlighted the national sections that we think can be easily dropped into a piece localized for virtually any community.
  4. Consider your author(s). Published op-eds tend to be written by community leaders or individuals with “social capital.” The Baltimore piece was coauthored by two well-known figures in the city – a longtime urban forest advocate and the city arborist.
  5. DO NOT send to more than one publication at a time. Publications do not want to see an op-ed they run show up in another publication the next day. If you have more than one potential placement, prioritize them and do not send to the next on your list until you’ve heard one way or another from the last publication you contacted.
  6. DO follow up. After you’ve submitted your op-ed, follow up. Call the person to whom you sent it and make sure he or she received it; ask whether there are any questions or comments. Remember there will be many opportunities to submit your op-ed, so if it is rejected the first time, ask why, and see what changes you can make for a future attempt.

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