Editors can reject an op ed submission for any number of reasons…below are the 7 most common reasons why.
Other articles in this op-ed writing guide:
How To Write an Op Ed: Why write an op ed? (Part 1)
The Best Op Ed Format and Op Ed Examples: Hook, Teach, Ask (Part 2)
How to Create Your Op-Ed’s Angle (Part 3)
How to Pitch Your Op-Ed: Explicit and Implicit Expectations of Editors (Part 4)
Op Ed Writing and Editing: A Complete Guide (Part 5)
7 Reasons Why Your op-ed Will Get Rejected–and how to fix them (Part 6)
Op-Ed Promotion: 6 Tips To Spread Your Opinion (Part 7)
Why your op-ed piece will get rejected:
- Problem: The topic has been covered extensively by this publication or similar ones that the readers read.
Cure: Find a unique angle or perspective that hasn’t shown up yet
- Problem: It doesn’t tie into any timely issue
Cure: Wait and keep it in your back pocket or revise the main argument to tie into something going in. Don’t try and force the issue but if you can tweak it just enough you’ll be OK. Alternatively, if you want to comment on breaking news, have an op-ed you can tailor to the situation prewritten. Often you’ll be able to predict events within your industry or what types of changes to the law may happen even though they may be months off from happening. Let’s say there’s an upcoming election with two candidates, you can write two op-eds, one for each outcome, and have them ready as soon as the results are tallied.
- You don’t have the authority — you might not be the best person to write the op-ed
Cure: Pitch first and demonstrate to the editor that you do have the authority before writing the full piece. If a full piece is required in lieu of a pitch, ensure that you have stated how your background makes you qualified to write it. It doesn’t need to be tons of degrees but you need some connection that says, “OK, this person is enough of an authority to publish this.” The publication doesn’t want to look silly.
- It’s clearly a first draft — no one has the time to go back and forth with numerous grammar and spelling revisions. The first draft you write should not be the first draft that the editor sees.
Cure: Revise and get the help of a writer with a journalism or PR background (Google is your friend); college professors in those areas are great, too.
- There were just too many submissions — sometimes this happens but if the issue is ongoing you might be considered for a later date to get published.
Cure: Submit at a later date or find a publication with less competition
- The publication doesn’t want to appear biased — this happens more often with local papers and covering political campaigns. If you’re running for office and the paper prints your op-ed, they will probably want to hear from your opponent.
Cure: If the race is notable, ask the paper if they would accept dueling op-eds and to reach out to your opponent (yikes, could backfire). Publish early before announcing your candidacy — ideally not the day before because that will look tricky. But if the upcoming election isn’t getting any coverage yet and there’s no buzz, and you’re still undeclared, and have an opinion, go for it. Alternatively, see if there are other publications that would accept your op-ed or larger ones that might not be local but where you could re-share the piece on your social media and email list. “Hey, I wrote this piece for Forbes…”
- Unbalanced–too many facts and not enough opinion–or ALL opinion. Your piece should teach or argue for a specific course of action. If it just reads like a traditional news story then it won’t fall into the opinion or op-ed category.
Cure: Ensure that you are advocating for a course of action–but on the flip-side ensure that you have made your case like a lawyer would in a closing argument: facts interwoven with emotions.