American Association for Cancer Research

Communicating through the Media: Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor

Bookmark and Share
 

Writing a letter to the editor or an opinion editorial (op-ed) is an effective way to educate and inform a broad audience about issues of importance to cancer researchers. A timely, well-written opinion piece has the potential to affect public opinion and influence policy.

On this page, you will find suggestions for writing opinion pieces and getting them published.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR


Submitting a letter to the editor is great way to support, refute or question a recent news article or opinion piece.
 
  • Review the publication's guidelines on letters to the editor. Before you begin writing, review the publication's guidelines to ensure that your letter meets basic requirements of length and formatting. Guidelines can typically be found on the publication's website under the Opinion section.
    •  Be sure to provide your contact information so that the publication can verify your identity.
  • Make your letter timely and relevant. Share your opinion about a recent event or respond to an article, editorial, or other letter to the editor that appeared in the publication. Keep in mind that your letter must stand on its own, as not all readers will have read the original story or be informed about the topic.
    •  Assume readers have no specialized understanding of your subject. Use short, simple sentences and avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Be focused and concise. Most publications limit letters to about 250 words. Your letter will also have the greatest affect on readers if it is short and direct.
  • Connect your letter to your community. Explain how your topic affects your community. Letters about issues of local importance and interest are most likely to be published.
    • Support your position with an example from your personal experience.
    • Avoid personal attacks.

 

OPINION EDITORIALS (OP-EDS)


Submitting an editorial piece is great way to share your opinion or educate the public about cancer research.

  • Review the publication's guidelines on op-eds. Before you begin writing, review the publication's guidelines to ensure that your opinion piece meets basic requirements of length and formatting. Guidelines can typically be found on the publication's website under the Opinion section.
    • Be sure to provide your contact information so that the publication can verify your identity.
  • Review the publication's opinion pages. Review opinion pieces that have already been published. This will give you a sense of the type and style of op-eds that the publication tends to publish. It will also tell you whether your topic has been previously covered or not.
  • Make your editorial timely and relevant. Share your opinion about a recent event or respond to an article or editorial that appeared in the publication. Keep in mind that your letter must stand on its own, as not all readers will have read the original story or be informed about the topic.
    • Assume readers have no specialized understanding of your subject. Use short, simple sentences and avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Be focused and concise. Most publications limit op-eds to about 500-800 words. Your op-ed will be more likely to be published and have the greatest effect on readers if it is brief, focused on one or two key points and easy to understand.
  • Give readers a reason to care. The general public often has difficulty understanding basic research and connecting it to their daily well-being. Your piece will be most effective if it communicates, in easy-to-understand, lay terms the importance of cancer research for healthy communities and economies.
    • Personal anecdotes are particularly effective and help readers feel a more personal connection to you and the subject.
    • Avoid personal attacks.
  • Provide recommendations. Suggest concrete, realistic actions that readers or policymakers can take that will make a difference (i.e. call your senator or representative, vote no, etc.)

Op-Ed Examples:

 

Contact the AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs if you have any questions or would like assistance. E-mail us or call (202) 898-6499.