If you are looking to craft an op-ed, Trish Hall, New York Times Op-Ed and Sunday Review editor, says to concentrate on telling stories of your research or your job. This is what will grab the interest of a reader as well. “What you tell your friends about is very telling. If you wouldn’t tell your friends about it, why would you write about it?”
Hall spoke to a collection of YPFP NY members at the World Policy Institute offices on March 11, 2014, as a part of the ongoing series Leadership Skills Workshops. The event was a talk on how to write an op-ed but it was far from a lecture. After a brief encapsulation of her career and her overall views on op-eds, some of which can be found in her 2013 New York Times piece “Op-Ed and You,” Hall spent the rest of the event answering questions from the audience.
Hall advised to write without jargon but to choose a topic on which you have a depth of research or knowledge. The best opinion pieces, she said, are either a big name saying something somewhat expected, or a surprising thought or analysis from an unexpected source. Most young professionals are unlikely to be referenced as a “big-name” but they can still write a compelling op-ed by relying on novel insight instead. “The fact that people can look at the same facts and come to entirely different opinions is fascinating.”
One audience member asked how best his non-profit employer could use opinion writing to get the word out about their cause. Hall cautioned that opinion pieces submitted by communication departments were generally too impersonal. Better are those written by a person directly experiencing the situation the non-profit wishes to ameliorate. “Readers want to feel the writer,” Hall said. “Op-eds that pull me into experiences that are entirely new—or that I’ve perhaps avoided—are really compelling.”
Read the article that started the conversation: Trish Hall, "Op-Ed and You," New York Times, October 13, 2013.
YPFP NY's Leadership Skills Workshop Series is a set of meetings that helps YPFP members build hands-on skills for their professional advancement. Check out other events in the series and read takeaways, including advice on networking from Larry Sharpe of the Neo-sage Group.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of their employer or Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.