Op-eds don't have to follow any one structure, but it helps to know what formats typically work well. Below are a few tips on structure. This is not a formula; just one way of approaching the form.
- An op-ed usually begins with an attention-grabbing lead, which can be as short as a few words, or as long as several paragraphs—but remember, an op-ed is short, so the lead usually is, too.
- The lead is often built around a news hook, such as a newsworthy event, an ongoing event, concern, or topic that is currently in the news, newly released data, or an upcoming anniversary.
- Your thesis—that is, a statement of your opinion or argument—usually comes next. It can be explicit or implicit.
- Evidence: Following the lead, you'll present evidence to back up your opinion or argument—this should be the bulk of your op-ed. Your "evidence" might include statistics, expert quotes, personal experience or anecdotes, and citations of scholarly works.
- A "to be sure" paragraph often appears right before your conclusion—here's where you can directly address the obvious counter-arguments to your position. You can do this either by acknowledging their validity, or by explaining why you think they don't hold water.
- A conclusion should wrap up what you've said, and send your reader forward: What should be done about a problem? Or how should we change our thinking? Often a conclusion will refer back to the op-ed's lead ("book-ending" your piece).