How to write an opinion piece for The Irish Times

The most important rule is to have a clear point to make and get to it quickly

You do not need any academic or professional qualification to write an oped, but you must offer some reason as to why our readers would be interested in your views on the subject about which you are proposing to write. Photograph: Getty Images

You do not need any academic or professional qualification to write an oped, but you must offer some reason as to why our readers would be interested in your views on the subject about which you are proposing to write. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Irish Times is always looking for interesting opinion pieces and fresh voices, particularly from writers who come from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented on our pages.

The following is intended as a brief guide to how to approach writing an opinion piece for us and how to submit it for consideration.

The basics

Opinion pieces are called opeds because they sit on the page opposite the editorial page of the newspaper, which carries the daily editorials and the letters.

They appear in the opinion section of The Irish Times website and app.

We publish three or four opeds every weekday and six on the weekend. One or two, depending on the day, are written by outside contributors.

Irish Times opeds are usually between 850 and 950 words long not including headlines and the author’s biographical details.

They can be submitted by email to opinion@irishtimes.com, either as an attachment or in the body of the email. Preferably both.

In the email you should set out briefly who you are and why you feel you are qualified to write the piece. You do not need any academic or professional qualification to write an oped, but you must offer some reason as to why our readers would be interested in your views on the subject about which you are proposing to write.

Please give a brief summary of the piece: no more than a sentence or two.

You should also explain why your idea is topical, ie, why we should publish it now.

It is not necessary to submit the finished article but the majority of contributors tend to do so. It gives us a better idea of the point you are making and speeds up the decision-making process. It can also help you formulate and express your thoughts.

We will endeavour to get back to you promptly with a yes or no. However, we get a large number of submissions each day and if you have not heard from us within three working days we are unlikely to use your submission.

Some advice on style and approach

Opeds are not columns and you should not try and write like a columnist. Avoid the use of the first person. Humour is also best avoided; there is no typeface for irony.

Keep your sentences short and avoid jargon and acronyms unless they are well known, eg, Nphet.

The most important rule – the only rule really – is to have a clear point to make and get to it quickly.

Writers from an academic or scientific background often tend to make the mistake of telling us everything we know already about a topic before revealing a new insight or piece of information.

When writing an oped you can assume the readers are up to speed on the topic because it relates to something in the news or otherwise generally understood and widely known. If your topic doesn’t fall into any of these categories then it is probably not oped material.

You need to grab the reader’s attention quickly – within the first couple of paragraphs – and it is best done by revealing the nature of the new information you have to tell them or the fresh perspective you are offering them.

The rest of the piece should be devoted to expanding on the core point, explaining your reasoning and arguing it out.You should try and anticipate the obvious counterarguments to your point and debate them.

Oftentimes it works well to present your argument as counterintuitive or contradictory of the received wisdom on a subject. Or alternatively as explicitly supportive of something or someone, particularly if there is an element of controversy, eg, X had no choice but to do Y.

If you are writing about a piece or research or a survey it is not necessary to explain the methodology or go into the results in detail. The readers are only interested in the results insofar as they are directly relevant to the point you are making.

And finally

The above is not exhaustive and there are always exceptions.

The following may also be helpful:

nytimes.com/2017/08/25/opinion/tips-for-aspiring-op-ed-writers.html

theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/14/how-to-pitch-article-guardian-opinion

helpcenter.washingtonpost.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003675788-Submit-an-op-ed

John McManus is Opinion Editor of The Irish Times

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