Advocacy 101: Writing an Effective Op-Ed

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When well written, op-eds can be wildly successful at convincing people to take action on a certain diabetes issue. This blog post will show you how to write an op-ed that will encourage people to advocate for your solution!

Op-eds are commentary articles from readers of a particular news source. A good advocacy op-ed outlines a problem and then suggests a way to fix it (kind of like what we do at DPAC!). There’s a formula for writing op-eds:

  1. Opening = outline the problem and say how to fix it
  2. Middle = your opinion with supporting facts
  3. End = restate the problem and call on the reader to act!

Writing the Opening

Hands on a desk writing on a pad of paper.

A good opening does three things: it clearly states the problem, shows how the problem is relevant, and provides a suggestion to fix it. You can do all that in just three sentences!

For example, you can show relevancy by tying the issue to something in the current news. Stating the problem should be easy- it’s what made you want to write the op-ed in the first place! Then all you have to do is write how you’d like someone to fix it. This can be by writing a letter of their own, calling their state or federal representatives, or any other action that will help solve the problem.

Here’s an example opening: (Relevancy →) On April 1, Medicare rolled out a new program for beneficiaries, the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program, which is designed to help beneficiaries who have prediabetes avoid being diagnosed with diabetes through education and lifestyle changes. (Problem →)However, many potential beneficiaries do not even know if they have prediabetes. (Solution →) Physicians should screen their patients for prediabetes to ensure that the patients know about what treatment options are available.

Writing the Middle

The middle should be three paragraphs of information. Lead with your opinion, then back up your opinion with objective facts. Don’t only use opinion or only use facts because it is the mixture of the two that best convinces people to see your side. Plus, even if someone disagrees with you, they cannot disagree with facts.

Here’s an example of a middle paragraph: (Opinion →)Doctors should test their patients for prediabetes so that eligible patients can receive treatments like the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program. (Facts →) According to the CDC, at least 23 million people age 65 and older have prediabetes. Unfortunately, about nine out of ten people who have prediabetes do not know they have it. Without treatment, prediabetes can lead to a diabetes diagnosis, and all the lifestyle changes, medication, and inappropriate stigma that comes with it.

Writing the End

After you’ve written all that in the middle, you should get to the point quickly in the end. After all, if they’re still reading, you’ve gotten their attention- now make them work! Your ending should be two sentences; the first one restates your solution, and the second one issues a call to action. The call to action should be something people can do. Asking people just to support your view doesn’t cause enough change.

Here’s an example of the ending: (Solution →) If physicians test their patients for prediabetes, then the patient can engage in programs like the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program that may help them avoid a diagnosis of diabetes later. (Call to Action →) Sign this letter to the physician’s group asking them to pay more attention to prediabetes!

Tips and Tricks

Hopefully we’ve made it very simple for you. Here’s a couple bonus tips to make your op-ed extra special:

Newspapers that say 'breaking news'

  1. It’s tempting to write your story and ask people to empathize with you. You can do that, but make sure you back up your experiences with facts! An op-ed shouldn’t just be a way to complain!
  2. Try to shoot for 750 words in your op-ed. Editors usually look for at least 500 words and no more than 1200. (However, some newspapers and online news outlets have a limit of 300 words or less, so make sure you check to see the word count – and then make those words count!)
  3. Remember, your audience is not just the people reading the final product, but also the editor who will decide if the op-ed gets published.
  4. Focus on only one issue. You can always write another one for other issues!
  5. Write how you talk. If you wouldn’t say it in real life, avoid it in your writing. The key is to be personable, but not chatty. Read some op-eds in trusted news sources to get a feel for the language.
  6. Have confidence in your writing! Your passion for diabetes advocacy will shine through!

What Next?

Go forth and write! The easiest way to get good at writing op-eds is to practice.  And there are plenty of diabetes issues on which to advocate.

Here’s an issue that everyone can be concerned with, whether you’re on Medicare now or plan to be someday: seniors on Medicare who use CGM are not allowed to view their data on a smartphone, which means they can’t use the Dexcom Follow app to have their loved ones view their data and get alarms when they have high or low blood sugars. It’s a huge safety issue!

If you choose to write on this issue, feel free to call your readers to visit the DPAC website and have them send a letter to the Representatives asking them to make CMS justify their decision to put beneficiaries at risk. Read more and get writing!

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