American Independent Business Alliance

Op-Ed Outline and Lead Tips

To find a lead that will work, first consider the focus or the theme of your story. Here are some questions to help you think about your theme:

  • Can I put a human face on the story? (effective persuasion involves appeals both to emotion and intellect, not just one or the other)
  • What one thing does the reader need to know more than any other?
  • Can you think of an anecdote that captures the essence of the story?
  • Can you think of an image that illustrates the meaning of the story?
  • Can you peg your piece to a relevant anniversary or annual event?
  • How will this news impact the average reader in their daily life?
  • Can you think of a metaphor to capture the story?
  • Does a quote tell the story, whether historical or contemporary?
  • Why did this story happen?
  • What important questions must be answered?
  • What concrete examples illustrate the significance of the issue?
  • What is the history behind the story?
  • What are the key problems to be solved in writing this story?

Some examples of engaging anecdotal leads

There was a rule, back when I was an education lawyer in a poor area, about visiting public schools: always go on a rainy day, so you can see how badly the roofs leak.

If there’s a negative health statistic floating out there, you can bet Nevada is attached to it: alcoholism, teen pregnancy, compulsive gambling, suicide, smoking, we’ve got it all.

See AMIBA’s guide to effective op-ed writing

See more tips and examples from the Op-ed Project

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