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Writing Opinion Editorials and Letters to the Editor

An Opinion Editorial or (op-ed) is a timely, provocative essay that expresses an opinion on an important issue. Letters to the editor generally respond to a previous article in the Newspaper. They can be useful and cost effective tools for advocates trying to get out a message. Most policy makers or their staff read these, as a way to track issues important to their constituents. Identify yourself. For example ”I am a mother as well as a nurse in the public health system..” Be Brief. 750 words or less for an Opinion Editorial and 150 words or less for a letter to the editor.

Plan your message. Choose just one. Avoid Jargon and check your facts. Use examples. Real life stories engage readers and can often make a point in far fewer words than a page of statistics. Make a specific recommendation. Include your name, address, phone number, any appropriate organizational affiliation, a one sentence description of that organization. However, you do not have to be writing on behalf of an organization to get published.

Most editors will respond to you within a week. They will call you to confirm you wrote the piece before they publish it. They may want to make some changes. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t print your article. Find out as much as you can about why your piece was not published. If you do get published, save the clipping and send it to the policy makers to be sure they see it.

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