How to Write a Great Op-Ed
As an open think tank, we provide a platform for anyone with good ideas on how to improve transatlantic policy. We encourage students and professionals to develop and share their analyses, commentary, and policy advice on contemporary issues of the economy, international security, and globalization. This text will explain how to: plan your arguments and structure your piece. Please read the entire text carefully before sending in a submission.
Policy Focus: While the purpose of academic work is often to analyze a complex issue in-depth, the goal of a think tank publication is to provide clear solutions for decision makers. We don't need to know the full history of a country. At atlantic-community.org, we aim to generate well thought-out policy recommendations; the statements "China is rising" or "America needs to reassure her allies" are only general observations. Quickly establish the problem or issue that you're discussing and finish with concrete, practical steps you recommend to improve the situation.
Feasibility: Make constructive policy recommendations that are actionable by decision makers in European and North American governments and related international organizations. Don't just call for more research or "engagement" or say we need more dialogue.
For example, how exactly should the EU address the sovereign debt crisis or how should Obama change his policy toward Iran? Will your policy recommendations cost money? If so, explain how you'd pay for it. Including a solution will make your argument even more convincing.
When you suggest a solution, give an example of it working elsewhere. Look for great examples that breathe life into your arguments. Avoid abstraction. Always use specific references and easy-to-understand data.
Be Creative: "America is declining ... and China is rising" has been said over a thousand times before! Be creative with both your ideas and approach to common issues. What can you offer to the debate that is unique and interesting?
Your Headline: Readers have short attention spans. Draw them in with a strong headline that emphasizes your central message. A catchy title will help sell your piece and allow readers to grasp your ideas quickly.
Your Thesis: Your thesis is a short taste of your article and is the most important part. It is 2-3 short sentences that entice us to read your article, the way an abstract would, without giving too much away. This abstract will be published below the headlne.
Your Main Argument: You need to grab the reader's attention in the first line. Express your opinion in your opening paragraph. Always come down hard on one side of the argument. Never equivocate. Don't waste words giving too much background information. Don't "clear your throat" with witty or historical asides. Get to the point and convince the reader that reading your article is worth the effort.
Framing the issue: Tell the reader why they should care about the issue. Imagine you are a busy person reading your article. At the end of each paragraph, ask yourself, "So what? Who cares?" Your article should answer these questions.
After you have made your argument, anticipate what the contrarians might say. Use one sentence to identify the strongest counter argument and refute it with facts. For example, "Some might argue that bombing Tehran is the only option, however..."
Language: If your English is not perfect, don't worry! Our editorial team can help you improve your writing. We look for clear and innovative policy recommendations. At Atlantic Community, your ideas and policy recommendations come first.
Be Active: The active voice ("I believe..." or "this means...") is more concise and easier to read than the passive voice ("it could be argued that"). Use active verbs and try to avoid adjectives and adverbs. By being direct you give your argument more strength.
Keep it Short: Anyone should be able to understand your argument. Short sentences make your argument clearer. Short paragraphs make your article easier to read. Avoid technical jargon, acronyms, and obscure references. Cut long paragraphs into two or more shorter ones. Only use technical details when they are essential to your argument. Using simple language doesn't mean simple ideas. It means successfully conveying your solutions to people who lack your expertise. Also remember to keep your submission between 500-700 words.
References: We do not publish footnotes, but please give credit to other people's work. Wherever possible, you should provide hyperlinks to your sources.
Your Ending: Your final paragraph should summarize your argument with a catchy, thought-provoking final sentence. Please avoid clichés, such as "we need to help the Arab genie force its way out of the bottle." Make sure your ending tells decision makers what actions they should take.
Practice makes perfect: Do not be intimidated by these guidelines. It's important to get started (and overcome the blank-page syndrome). Once you begin writing, you are likely to end up past the 700-word limit and then need to shorten your article. So, get started with writing and then revise and improve based on the above guidelines. Nobody writes perfect prose in their first draft.
Need more guidance? There are thousands of published pieces already on our website; feel free to treat them as samples. You can also contact the editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org
For additional requirements and information on how to write and submit your article, including how to register and upload a photo onto your Atlantic Community Profile, please click here.
We look forward to reading your submission!!!
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