February 3, 2013 4 Comments

The Op-Ed

The Op-Ed is an interesting beast, not least because that shorthand is often thought to mean “opinion or editorial” when in fact it means “opposite the editorial page” (on that perhaps dying artifact known as a newspaper), and as it turns out the two definitions are about equally accurate in these days of electronic readers.


One of the great things about op-eds is that anyone can write one (unlike editorials which are written by the newspaper’s staff). Of course, nothing’s really that simple, and writing an op-ed is easier than writing a good op-ed, which in turn is easier than getting even a good one accepted for publication. Most papers get hundreds or thousands of submissions for a handful of spots.

So can you increase your chances of success? And why should you listen to me?

I’m no expert but I have had 3 op-eds published, two in 1999 in the San Francisco Chronicle – The Fear of Losing Who We Are and A City Full of The Hidden Homebound – and one today in the New York Times, Weighing the End of Life.

oped nyt screenshot

All three drew on my expertise as a geriatrician, though the first combined that with my passion for reading, the second with my concern for the patients I met as a housecalls doctor, and the third with my love for my dog, Byron.

Byron 2002 cropped

1997 – 2012

So what do you need to write an op-ed? At the very least, it’s important to have:

  1. A topic of interest to others
  2. Some expertise (knowledge and/or experience) in that topic
  3. A great story to tell and/or an original and interesting argument
  4. An effective way of communicating 1-3


And if you’d like to learn more about writing op-eds, you’re in luck. The perfect resource  already exists – Go to the Op-Ed Project to find:

  • submission information for over 100 top outlets
  • how to create world changing arguments
  • basic op-ed structure; tips for writing publication worthy op-eds
  • how to write ledes and news hooks
  • how to pitch your op-ed idea
  • and seminars to learn more.

Happy writing!

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4 Responses to The Op-Ed

  1. Laurie Orlov February 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Couldn’t comment on NY Times — so here is my comment — your patients, not demented, told you (begged) when they were ready for the end of life. But because they are people and not dogs, it seems (from your OpEd) not to be possible for you to help them die — yet a dog, at the owner’s decision, can be taken to a Vet and to hospice and relieved of long-standing misery.

    Ironically, the treatment of people seems to be inhumane.

    Best regards,

    Laurie Orlov

    • Bill in NC February 4, 2013 at 9:24 am #

      I also wondered if she advised her patients of their right to discontinue artificial nutrition/hydration.

      My mother died of a long, terminal illness but fortunately for us had a very clear advanced written directive (including no IV antibiotics, no feeding tube).

      I know the above is often a controversial decision, but I hope the author did advise her patients on their options.

  2. Bern Terry February 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Making end of life decisions are a very important topic which many of us find difficult to think about, much less discuss. Some may sense that talking about dying makes it more likely to happen. This superstition feels real even though this is universal – each of us, and all our friends and family members, and yes, all our pets will die. Thank you for writing and sharing your story. Perhaps it will help others start this conversation. It has helped me. Bern

  3. Jason February 6, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Read your article and think the comparison between people and dogs to be silly and insulting. I am not a dog.

    If I have you as my doctor some day, please don’t talk me into ruffie coladas. I just want to sit in front of my Telly and watch reruns of Lost and maybe have an occasional visitor I don’t know.


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