Writing Opinions for The Mercury
The Mercury publishes op-ed submissions in an effort to reflect a wide variety of campus perspectives. Topics or the opinion reflected in the op-ed should be relevant to a college audience. The Mercury reserves the right to reject any submission and to edit op-eds for accuracy, clarity, spelling, grammar, style, length or to make them free from libel.
Space in the opinion section is limited. As such, when members of the UTD community wish to write a rebuttal to a previously published opinion piece, submissions will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. After pitch meetings, The Mercury will put out an announcement on social media detailing all the columnist opinions that will be running that cycle, and offer the opportunity to readers to write a counter. After that, publication will follow the “back-and-forth” rule. For example, say John wants to write an opinion piece; an announcement is put out on social media in advance, and Jane reaches out to write a counterargument to be published in the same issue. After the issue is published, John decides Jane brought up points he would like to address in a follow-up rebuttal; Bill, meanwhile, decides to write a rebuttal for John’s original piece, since he feels there are ways Jane’s argument can be supplemented. After these pieces are published, however, John cannot write a response to Bill, nor can Jane or Bill write another response to John’s second piece. The discussion has gone back and forth; after that, it’s time to make space for other opinions and discussions.
For each print issue, the total number of opinion pieces will be limited to eight. This includes the opinion columns, staff opinions and non-staff op-eds. Priority will be given to opinion column publications and any rebuttals; after that, op-eds will be published in the order in which they are received.
Please reach out to the opinion editor if you have any questions regarding these policies.
The Mercury operates on a two-week production cycle during the fall and spring semesters, and a three-week production cycle during the summer semester. Therefore, writing drafts in a timely manner, completing edits and communicating with editors is critical to the success of your piece.
- First draft due to opinion editor on: _____*
- Ben Nguyen, Opinion Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Second draft due to managing editor on: _____*
- Emaan Bangash, Managing Editor (email@example.com)
- Third draft due to editor-in-chief on: _____*
- Madison York, Editor-in-Chief (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Your article will be published in the _____* issue
*Please contact the opinion editor for deadlines and publication dates.
After you submit your third draft to the editor-in-chief, be sure to check your email and/or text messages frequently during the Saturday before publication: this is when we have our production time, and may need to contact you for additional final edits. If you do not respond to us at this time, The Mercury reserves the right to make final edits as necessary.
As a general rule, you should respond to messages from editors within 24 hours.
When submitting your drafts, in the subject line of the email, put your name, title of the article, and number of draft, like so:
Be sure to identify who you are in the email and attach a headshot of yourself, (be sure that lighting is sufficient, and that the background behind you is blank). The Mercury does not publish anonymous op-eds and will not publish your piece without a headshot. Additionally, please include a brief introduction of yourself in the third-person, detailing your name, major, year, and where you’re from. For example:
“John Doe is a political science freshman from Washington, D.C.”
Writing Your Piece
Please use this outline to guide and organize your writing. It is highly encouraged that you make your own outline, as well. It will help facilitate the flow of your ideas and make it easier to start writing your first draft. Articles should be on the order of 500-800 words.
- BEGINNING THE PIECE – THE NEWS LEDE
Typical news articles begin with an approximately 40-word summary of the piece to introduce the article. Opinion articles allow some leeway in terms of length, but the concept is the same. Your first paragraph (“graf”) should clearly state the stance you’ll be taking. It can often be easiest to start out with some sort of anecdote, question or statement to introduce your idea, then lead into a sort of “thesis statement” of what your opinion will be.
- THE MEAT OF YOUR ARGUMENT – THE MAIN GRAFS
As long as you remain within the overall word limit, there is no set amount for how many grafs you should have. However, there are several things to keep in mind as you structure your piece:
- WWWWWH: Who, what, where, when, why and how are the staples of journalism. Addressing these first four early on in your piece helps establish the context for your argument and get your reader oriented. Are there people involved in your opinion? What are the factors surrounding it? Does it affect a certain location? When did it happen, and why is it timely? How did it happen? Why should it change or stay the same? (These are certainly not the only questions you can ask yourself, but they might help you get started).
- Transitions and Organization: Make sure that your ideas are organized into different grafs, and that transitions between different ideas are fluid.
- Data: No opinion piece is complete without data and statistics to support your claim. Whether that means researching online, conducting a survey or interviewing someone, be sure to include at least one or two outside pieces of information that support your opinion. The more the better; quantity will vary depending on piece. Should you need help finding evidence, don’t hesitate to approach the opinion editor with questions. PLEASE CITE ALL SOURCES YOU USE. The most preferable way for you to do this is to hyperlink your web sources in your word document.
- Writing Professionally: Be sure to keep language relatively formal (for example, “listen, guys, we need to do better” would not be an acceptable sentence). However, don’t fill your piece with words from a thesaurus. Maintain your own professional voice.
- Naysayers: when writing about a controversial topic, it can be helpful to address potential counterarguments to your opinion, and why they might not be true. This is a place where data is particularly important. Some people who read your piece may be opposed to your opinion; using objective evidence is crucial to appealing to their position.
- CONCLUDING THE PIECE – THE CALL TO ACTION
This is where the bulk of your “why” should come. Given all the data and the opinions you’re arguing for, why should we care? What should change or stay the same? How do you propose we go about making change? Making it applicable to readers — in particular, UTD faculty, staff and students — is a key part of rounding out your article.