Based on materials developed by the OpEd Project (theopedproject.org). See helpful links at the bottom.
Compelling/colorful lede — Ideally around a news hook.
Thesis — Statement of the main argument of the piece.
Argument based on evidence — E.G., stats, news, reports from credible organizations, expert quotes, research, history, first-hand experience.
1st Point: Evidence, Evidence, Conclusion
Transition, followed by 2nd Point: Evidence, Evidence, Conclusion
Transition, followed by 3rd Point: Evidence, Evidence, Conclusion
Note: The body need not be formulaic; it’s most important that the body offer some EXPOSITION OF THE ARGUMENT with SUPPORTING EVIDENCE.
“To Be Sure” paragraph — Pre-empt potential critics by acknowledging any flaws in the argument, and/or addresses any obvious counter‐arguments.
Kicker/conclusion — Often circles back to your lede — and may offer thoughts on how to solve a problem the piece outlines. Like the lede, it should be clear and pithy.
Op-Eds: Key Questions
What’s the the main idea? How long does it take to get there?
What’s the news peg/hook? Why should people care about this now?
What standing does the author have on this issue? Is s/he an expert, or does s/he have personal experience of it?
Does the piece offer a fresh argument — one that’s not obvious/consistently talked about? Is it surprising/counterintuitive or does it offer new information — or at least synthesize it in a new way?
Does the piece follow a logical argument? Does it make sense or is it a struggle to understand?
Does it have supporting evidence for its argument?
Could a broad audience understand this piece, or is it full of technical jargon or inside baseball references?
If it outlines a problem, what’s its solution?
Wait, how long is this thing?
See the OpEd Project website for lots more:
Additional writing tips — write fast, respect your reader, avoid jargon
How to pitch — be timely, convey expertise, how to follow up
FAQs — including about submissions (approx. 600 words for many outlets, but it varies)