Ask the Experts: Op Eds and Letters to the Editor

Question: How do I submit an opinion piece (an "op-ed") or a "letter to the editor" to my local newspaper?

Answer: Newspapers have many rules about what they'll accept and what they won't, both for op-eds or guest columns, or a letter to the editor in which you can take issue with something reported recently in the newspaper.

The first rule: be timely. If a news story runs on a Thursday, get your response in the next day. If you wait a week, the newspaper most likely won't print your reply because it's "old news."

Another rule: pay attention to length limits and requirement. For specifics requirements of your local newspaper, go to that paper's website and click on the editorial section. There you'll find guidelines for length and where to send your letter or opinion piece. You can email it – the preferred method – or mail it it.

Generally, letters to the editor should be 200 words or less. That's not much, so you'll likely have to rework your letter several times. Guest opinion pieces are longer, with most around 600 or 650 words.

Third: you'll likely have to agree that you're sending your letter or op-ed exclusively to that newspaper. So if you want to raise the same issue in another community, you'll need to rewrite your work.