Writing opinion articles

So, you want to write an opinion piece

An opinion article in a national news outlet is a great way to get your ideas noticed by politicians, policy and other decision makers, your peers and the wider public. This is why opinion editors for national publications receive hundreds of emails a day pitching opinion pieces.

However, the reality is that most of these articles and ideas for articles do not get published - partly because space is so limited for them.

This should not discourage you from pitching your idea if you believe you have something important to say. However, you should do it in a way that’s most likely to get it read and create the least work for you and the editor who reads it.

Cutting through the noise 

  • When pitching your idea, you should generally email the opinion or comment editor not the journalist who specialises in the area you want to write about. Their details should be available on the publication's website, but LSE's media relations team can help you if you can't find them. 
  • Approach the news outlet that is most likely to publish your piece, given their political persuasion and the issue you wish to cover.  
  • In your email introduce yourself and your credentials. Explain why you have the expertise to write about the issue you are proposing to cover. This should be no more than one or two lines.  
  • Write a brief outline of what argument you are going to make in the piece in a concise way, so it can be assessed quickly. We recommend doing this using three to four bullet points so it’s easier for an editor to scan. Remember to explain why the piece is timely or ‘news’ if it is not apparent.    
  • Include contact details for how the publication can get hold of you quickly if necessary.

Things to avoid 

  • Be sure that your proposed piece sets out an opinion, rather than an ‘on the one hand, on the other’ survey of the issue. 
  • You should not send a pre-written article speculatively. As detailed above, journalists do not have the time to read these. 
  • Don’t use jargon unless you are writing for a specialist publication. The national newspapers and their websites want articles which make good arguments in plain language. 
  • Don’t wait to pitch your idea if it relates to something in the news. Often a publication will want to run an opinion piece the day after a piece of news has broken. 
  • You should not pitch to more than one publication at once. Each publication wants an article exclusively, and if you have already offered it elsewhere, you might be rejected on this basis alone. 

What happens next?  

Unfortunately, because of the overwhelming amount of emails opinion editors receive, you are unlikely to hear back unless they are interested in following up with you. If you have not heard back within 24 –48 hours, and the idea is still fresh, you can consider pitching it to another publication.  

If the publication does follow up with you, they will likely ask for an article that is 600 – 800 words long. If it’s very timely they may ask for it by the end of the day, or the next day. It’s worth asking yourself if you have time to do this before pitching your article.   

The media relations team is very happy to advise you on your draft opinion piece after you have been commissioned. 

Need more help? 

Read more guidance about writing for different publications: 

The Guardian   

The Financial Times  

If you are not sure which publication to pitch your idea to or you would like some more guidance please contact the media relations team who will be happy to help. Email: media.relations@lse.ac.uk