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December 14, 2012 |  Print  Your Opinion  

Editorial Team

How to Write a Good Your Opinion Article

Editorial Team: As an open think tank we provide a platform for anyone with good ideas on how to improve transatlantic policy. Writing op-eds can be very intimidating if you have never published one before. Here is some practical advice, as well as our editorial guidelines.

We encourage students and professionals to develop and share their analyses, commentary and policy advice on contemporary issues of the economy, international security, and globalization.

This text will explain how to: 1) submit your article, 2) plan your arguments, and 3) structure your piece. Please read the entire text carefully before sending in a submission. We recognize that we have tough criteria, but once you get into the swing of things, it isn't as hard as it looks.

Submitting Your Article

Register:
To submit an article, you must first register as member of atlantic-community.org here.

Picture:
Please remember to upload a professional, high quality picture to your AC profile during the registration. If you encounter a technical problem, you can also attach your picture as a separate JPEG in your submission e-mail. The picture should be at least 85 x 125 pixels. Do not send the picture as part of a WORD document; make it a separate file.

Submission: Once you've confirmed your membership, you can submit your piece through the "Submit Article" link under the Community heading. If that doesn't work, you can also e-mail it to staff@atlantic-community.org.

Byline: Please remember to include an author byline at the end of your article (1-2 sentences about yourself). Below the byline, please include a pledge that the article is entirely your original work and that you have not plagiarized from someone else.

Timeline: We will confirm within 1-2 days that we have received your submission. The editorial team will then review your piece and contact you as soon possible regarding the status of your submission. Please note that we give preference to articles on time-sensitive topics and to members who frequently comment on other articles.

Planning Your Article

Pick Your Theme:
Articles should discuss an issue of transatlantic importance or one significant to global politics. We are interested in topics ranging from traditional and non-traditional security concerns, the global economy, climate change, NATO, and many more. Op-eds should also be comprehensible to members of the general public.

Pick Your Argument: Articles for our Your Opinion section should be 500-700 words. Because you can't solve the world's problems in 700 words, please focus on one issue or policy idea and explain it with two or three key points. Use a few examples for each point in order to demonstrate what you mean. You are trying to cover too much if you can't explain your message in one or two sentences.

Policy Focus: While the purpose of academic work is often to analyze a complex issue in depth, the goal of a think tank publication is to provide clear solutions for decision makers. At Atlantic Community we aim to generate well thought-out policy recommendations. We don't need to know the history of a country in your op-ed. Quickly establish the problem or issue that you're discussing and finish with concrete, practical steps you recommend to improve the situation.

Feasibility: Make constructive policy recommendations that are actionable by decision makers in the European and North American governments and related international organizations. Don't just call for more research or "engagement" or say we need more dialogue.

For example, how exactly should the EU address the sovereign debt crisis or how should Obama change his policy towards Iran? Will your policy recommendations cost money? If so, explain how you'd pay for it. Including a solution will make your argument even more convincing.

When you suggest a solution, give an example of it working elsewhere. Look for great examples that breathe life into your arguments. Avoid abstraction. Always use specific references and easy-to-understand data.

Be Creative: "America is declining...and China is rising" has been said over a thousand times before! Be creative with both your ideas and approach to common issues. What can you offer to the debate that is unique and interesting?

Writing Style

Your Title:
Readers have short attention spans. Draw them in with a strong headline that emphasizes your central message. A catchy title will help sell your piece and allow readers to grasp your idea quickly.

Your Thesis: Your thesis is a short taste of your article and is the most important part. It is 2-3 short sentences that entice us to read your article, the way an abstract would, without giving too much away. Italicize your thesis and place it at the very beginning of the article, underneath the title.

Your Main Argument: You need to grab the reader's attention in the first line. Express your opinion in your opening paragraph. Always come down hard on one side of the argument. Never equivocate. Don't waste words giving too much background information. Don't "clear your throat" with witty or historical asides. Get to the point and convince the reader that reading your article is worth the effort.

Framing the issue:
Tell the reader why they should care about the issue. Imagine you are a busy person reading your article. At the end of each paragraph ask yourself, "So what? Who cares?" Your article should answer these questions.

After you have made your argument, anticipate what the contrarians might say. Use one sentence to identify the strongest counter argument and refute it with facts. For example, "Some might argue that bombing Tehran is the only option, however..."

Language: If your English is not perfect, don't worry! Our editorial team can help you improve your writing. We look for clear and innovative policy recommendations. At Atlantic Community, your ideas and policy recommendations come first.

Be Active: The active voice ("I believe..." or "this means...") is more concise and easier to read than the passive voice ("it could be argued that"). Use active verbs and try to avoid adjectives and adverbs. By being direct you give your argument more strength.

Keep it Short: Anyone should be able to understand your argument. Short sentences make your argument clear. Short paragraphs make your article easier to read. Avoid technical jargon, acronyms and obscure references. Cut long paragraphs into two or more shorter ones. Only use technical details when they are essential to your argument. Using simple language doesn't mean simple ideas. It means successfully conveying your solutions to people who lack your expertise.

References: We do not publish footnotes, but please give credit to other people's work. Wherever possible you should provide hyperlinks to your sources.

Your Ending: Your final paragraph should summarize your argument with a catchy, thought-provoking final sentence. Please avoid clichés like "we need to help the Arab genie force its way out of the bottle." Make sure your ending tells decision makers what action they should take.

Practice makes perfect: Do not be intimidated by these guidelines. It's important to get started (and overcome the blank-page syndrome). Once you begin writing, you are likely to end up past the 700 word limit and then need to shorten it. So, get started with writing and then revise and improve based on the above guidelines. Nobody writes perfect prose in the first draft.

Need more guidance? There are thousands of published pieces already on our website; feel free to treat them as samples. You can also contact the editorial team at staff@atlantic-community.org.

                        We look forward to reading your submission!

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