Women's Stories Matter: How-To Guide for Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds
Women’s Stories Matter. Policy makers around the country are passing laws directly limiting the rights of women and negatively impacting gains that so many have worked hard to secure.
You can be more than an observer to all of this. You can use your story to impact and influence your community and your elected officials.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to use the power of print and digital media. Below are simple instructions to guide you in sharing your story across communications platforms.
How to Write a Letter to the Editor
1. Find your local newspaper's Letters to the Editor submission email on their website. Some newspapers even have an online submission form that you can use.
2. Be sure to check that you are obeying your newspaper's word limit, sometimes as low as 150-200 words.
3. Write your letter. What makes for a good letter?
- Focus on just one topic
- Obey the word count
- Be clear and concise.
- Tell your story. You don’t need to be a policy expert, a researcher or an academic. Remember – women’s stories matter. You have a story to tell.
4. Paste your letter into the body of your email.
5. Note that many newspapers will require that letter writers submit contact information with their letter. Phone numbers won't be published. This is just to verify your identity.
6. Submit to smaller local papers, not just the nearest big city paper. This will maximize your chances of getting published.
How to Write an Op-Ed
1. Focus your message on one key point. Although there may be many issues relating to women that you want to address, you will have more success if your editorial is focused and easy to understand.
2. Keep it short. Newspapers generally accept op-eds of 500-800 words. Magazines may accept slightly larger pieces, but check the publication’s requirements before you submit your column.
3. Tell the readers why they should care. Women’s stories matter. Your story matters. Use your story to tell readers why they should care.
4. Offer specific recommendations. Remember – an op-ed is not a news story that simply describes a situation; it is your opinion about how to improve matters. Make your call to action something concrete and realistic.
5. Make your op-ed timely. Editors will be looking for op-ed columns that are compelling and engage readers in the public debate about a timely issue.
6. Review opinion pieces in the paper by other authors . By reading these pieces you can get a sense of what is being covered and what is not being addressed. You can also get an idea of the types of op-eds that the editor publishes.
NOTE: A newspaper editor (and Badass Women’s Book Club member!) reminded me that papers are often looking for exclusivity in what they print. So, keep that in mind when you are pitching multiple outlets.
What if your letter or op-ed isn't printed?
If your letter or op-ed didn't get printed, don't take it personally. It is not a rejection of your story. Newspapers can only print a few letters and opinion pieces at a time and often get hundreds of submissions on a particular topic.
In the meantime, post the content of your letter or op-ed on social media, tagging your elected officials, local organizations who support your topic, and your local newspapers.