We here at Capital In Context love a good op-ed. That’s why we’re so fond of sharing frequent reminders about how (and how not) to write a well thought-out opinion article.
Thankfully, The Washington Post recently covered the bases with this list of tips. We’ve highlighted some of our favorites below:
Keep it focused. Target 750 to 800 words. Make sure your thesis is in the first couple of paragraphs. Burying the point is probably the biggest mistake we see clients making in first drafts.
Consider visual aids. Op-eds can incorporate charts, photos, audio or even comics.
Brevity is key – especially when you’re making a sophisticated point. "The more complex the thought, the shorter the sentence should be," the Post advises.
Question questions. Which is to say, when raising a question, ask yourself what point you’re trying to make. As the Post asks, "Is the question a lazy device for making an insinuation without really owning it?"
Use numbers (in moderation). Stats can bolster an argument and help make your point. But use them sparingly—it’s an op-ed, not a math problem. And you risk alienating readers.
Explain your reasoning. Points that seem obvious to you might not be so clear to the reader. "Remember, you’ve already thought your argument through; readers haven’t."
No jargon. It doesn’t make you sound smarter, and it turns readers off.
Cision recently released its 2022 Global State of the Media Report, which includes an in-depth survey of journalists. Our colleagues at FGS Global’s Health Media Insights newsletter read it so you don’t have to—and found the three most notable insights for communications professionals:
Respect reporters’ tight timelines. The report found 57% of surveyed reporters need help accessing sources and data in a timely manner, but several respondents indicated media relations professionals can be unreliable. For example, one respondent cautioned against offering a source for a time-sensitive piece unless you’re sure they’re available ahead of a deadline – offering a source without a flexible schedule is a quick way to lose a reporter’s trust.
Follow up on a pitch no more than once. The instinct to send follow-up emails in the hope of gaining a reporter’s attention is understandable, but journalists advise against overdoing it. More than half of surveyed journalists said you should send no more than one follow-up email, and 31% of reporters said you should never follow up at all.
Social media’s not the place for a pitch – unless it is. The report found 46% of reporters don’t prefer social media pitches or would block a person who sent them one, while 50% said it’s acceptable or depends on the approach. Ultimately, only 4% said they prefer it, so we recommend sparing use of social media for pitching. If you’re not sure of a reporter’s preference, we advise spending some time on their social media page to see if they regularly ask for sources or story ideas on the platform and whether they highlight their preferences in their bios.
Deeper Dive: Interested in reading the full report? You can access it here.
To sign up for FGS Global’s Health Media Insights newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In honor of Pride Month, our colleagues in Los Angeles share some AP Stylebook tips for communicating around LGBTQ issues:
Capitalize Pride when referring to events or organizations honoring the LGBTQ community.
Twin Cities Pride. "Are you going to Pride?" she asked. It’s Pride day. Several cities are holding Pride events this weekend.
Lowercase pride when referring to generic events or the general concept of LGBTQ pride.
He attended a pride parade.
When referring to Pride Month, Month should be capitalized.
Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and/or queer.
Other forms such as LGBTQIA and other variations are also acceptable with the other letters explained. I generally stands for intersex, and A can stand for asexual (a person who doesn't experience sexual attraction), ally (some activists decry this use of the abbreviation for a person who is not LGBT but who actively supports LGBT communities) or both.
Use of LGBT or LGBTQ is best as an adjective and an umbrella term. Walters joined the LGBTQ business association.
Queer is an umbrella term covering people who are not heterosexual or cisgender and is acceptable for people and organizations that use the term to identify themselves.
Gender refers to a person’s social identity, while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations. So avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people. When needed for clarity or in certain stories about scientific studies, alternatives include men and women, boys and girls, males and females.
Language around gender is evolving. The AP recommends the terms sex reassignment or gender confirmation for the medical procedures used for gender transition, while some groups use other terms, such as gender affirmation or sex realignment.