[10 on Tuesday] How to Write an Op-Ed/Letter to the Editor


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In our last public relations-focused toolkit, we discussed how to pitch your preservation story to the news media. But if you have a time-sensitive or pressing preservation issue that you want to get in front of readers as soon as possible, then consider writing an op-ed or letter to the editor (LTE) instead. These allow you to express your opinion quickly while still reaching a large viewership.

This toolkit shares 10 tips on how to write a successful op-ed or letter to the editor about your preservation project.


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[10 on Tuesday] How to Write an Op-Ed/Letter to the Editor

  1. 1. How to Write an Op-Ed/Letter tothe EditorShare Your Preservation Story in a Timely,Effective Way Photo courtesy John Niedermeyer, Flickr
  2. 2. 1. Decide which form fitsyour message.The Op-Ed and Letters to the Editor (LTE)sections are among the most widely readsections of a newspaper. Publication of an op-ed or LTE will ensure your message reaches alarge number of people. An op-ed is generallyan article (600-750 words) that gives detailedunderstanding of both sides of an issue andexplains why the author has chosen one side ofthe argument. A LTE is an even shorterresponse (150-200 words) that often addressesa recent article in that newspaper.Photo courtesy spelio, Flickr
  3. 3. 2. Select a topic and doyour research.It is important to write about thepreservation topics that interestand/or concern you. When pitchingstories, make sure to read otherarticles from your target publicationto get a sense of their content, andalso become well-versed andarticulate about your issue area. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  4. 4. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation3. Consider your audience.Readership will vary across publications, depending on theoutlet’s focus and geographic reach. Identify whether yourmessage would resonate more with a local, regional/state, ornational audience. Then narrow down which publications canbest reach your target reader.
  5. 5. 4. Think like a reader.Most readers will likely not have the background knowledge on thesubject matter at hand, so remember to be thorough and providedetails in a clear and concise way. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  6. 6. 5. Include references inLTEs.If your LTE is in response to aprevious article, or about a particularproject or issue, make sure it refersback to those items so readers havea full scope of what is going on (incase they didn’t read the originalpieces). Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  7. 7. Photo courtesy SalFalko, flickr6. Use statistics to make your point.While you don’t want your piece to be laden with numbers, youdo want to use facts to strengthen your letter or op-ed. Pertinentinfo might include how many buildings in your state have beennominated to the National Register, how much it costs to replacethe windows in a historic house, and so on.
  8. 8. 7. Provide evidence for your argument.If you’re putting together an op-ed about why going green in yourhistoric home is more cost-effective, do not simply state it, butprovide concrete reasoning as to why. Keep your copy concise andyour points compelling. Photo courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
  9. 9. 8. Encourage readers totake action.If your op-ed/LTE is encouraging thereader to join the cause, let themknow how they can become part ofyour project (or the movementoverall). Provide the name of anorganization they may join, apetition to sign, a link to donate, etc. Photo courtesy stepol, Flickr
  10. 10. 9. Submit your piece.Today, many publications accept op-eds andLTEs via email. Because op-ed or LTE tend tobe timely, it is important to submit your article orletter quickly while the issue at hand is stillrelevant.Photo courtesy meetrajesh, Flickr
  11. 11. 10. Follow up on yoursubmission.After submitting your op-ed/LTE, waita week before following up with theeditor. Newsrooms are fast-paced,and often op-eds/LTEs can get lost inthe shuffle. A quick call or email todetermine the status of yoursubmission is always a good idea.Following up will allow you to alsoanswer any additional questions thatthe editor might have. Photo courtesy cogdogblog, Flickr
  12. 12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips, visitblog.PreservationNation.org.