Washington Post Opinions Frequently Asked Questions

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009; 12:00 AM

How do I make my opinion heard?

How do I send a letter to the editor?

What are the guidelines for letters submissions?

How are letters selected for publication?

Are letters edited?

When will I hear about my letter?

What is an op-ed?

How do I submit an op-ed?

What are the guidelines for op-ed submissions?

How are op-ed contributions selected?

When will I hear back about my op-ed submission?

Are op-eds edited?

Are op-eds solicited?

What is an editorial?

How does an editorial come together?

Who is on the editorial board?

What is Outlook?

How do I contact the ombudsman?

What is an ombudsman?

How do I make my opinion heard?

The Post strives to provide many outlets for reader opinions and outside contributions, including: article and blog comments, letters to the editor, op-eds/opinion columns, the Sunday Outlook section, local opinion essays, the Sunday Free for All feature, online Q&As with Post writers and other personalities, moderated discussion groups and polls.

How do I send a letter to the editor?

We accept letters by e-mail and snail mail. Write to letters@washpost.com or to: Letters to the Editor, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington DC 20071.

What are the guidelines for letters submissions?

Letters must be limited to 200 words. They should take as their starting point an article or other item appearing in The Post. They may not have been submitted to, posted to or published by any other media. They must include the writer's full name -- anonymous letters and letters written under pseudonyms will not be considered. They must also include the writer's home address, e-mail address and telephone numbers. We ask that writers disclose any personal or financial interest in the subject matter of their letters. If sending e-mail, please put the text of the letter in the body and do not send attachments -- they will not be read.

How are letters selected for publication?

The Post receives thousands of letters each week. Letters editor Mike Larabee reads them all and looks for concise letters that cite an item published by The Post and add depth to the discussion.

Are letters edited?

Letters are edited for clarity, fact checked and sometimes trimmed to fit the space available in the newspaper. But the opinions expressed are always the writer's own.

When will I hear about my letter?

We do our best to read all letters promptly. If you haven't heard from a Post editor within two weeks, it's safe to assume your letter won't be published.

What's an op-ed?

Taking its name from its traditional position opposite the editorial page of a newspaper, an op-ed is an opinion essay written by a staff columnist or an outside contributor. It should have a clear point of view or argument supported by specific evidence. It does not represent the opinions of The Washington Post -- in fact, it may often contradict the opinion of the Post editorial board.

How do I submit an op-ed?

Use this online form or send mail to: Op-Eds, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington DC 20071.

What are the guidelines for op-ed submissions?

Submissions must be limited to 800 words. We consider only completed articles and cannot commit to, or provide guidance on, article proposals. Op-eds may not have been submitted to, posted to or published by any other media. They must include the writer's full name -- anonymous op-eds or op-eds written under pseudonyms will not be considered. They also must include the writer's home address, e-mail address and telephone numbers. Additionally, we ask that writers disclose any personal or financial interest in the subject at hand.

How are op-ed contributions selected?

The Post receives upwards of 100 unsolicited submissions a day and on most days can accommodate only one outside contribution on the op-ed page and sometimes an additional op-ed online. Submissions are read by editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl, assistant editorial page editor Autumn Brewington and washingtonpost.com opinions editor Marisa Katz. Among the things we look for are timeliness (is it pegged to something in the news?), resonance (is it something that will interest Post readers?) and freshness of perspective (is it an argument we haven't heard many times before?). You don't need to have special expertise in a topic. But explaining how your background or experience informs your point of view can make for a more effective op-ed. You also don't need to have an important title -- and having an important title doesn't mean we'll publish your op-ed. In fact, because we realize that senators, business leaders, heads of state and the like have access to various platforms where they can express their views, we hold them to a particularly high standard when considering whether to publish them in The Post.

When will I hear back about my op-ed submission?

We do our best to read all submissions promptly. If you don't hear from us within a week, it's safe to assume we won't be able to use your op-ed.

Are op-eds edited?

Our editors are careful not to alter a writer's opinions or "voice," but all op-eds are edited for clarity and precision of language and for logic of argumentation and organization. They are also fact checked and copy edited for grammar and style and may be adjusted to fit the space available in the newspaper. We ask contributors to sign off on all changes before we publish a final version on the Web site or op-ed page.

Are op-eds solicited?

Although we carefully review all unsolicited pieces coming across the transom, we also reach out to people we think might have an interesting opinion on a topic in the news -- especially when the news is breaking and we'd like to get smart commentary onto the Web site and into the paper quickly. For our regular Topic A feature, we ask several experts, with a range of perspectives, for their first impressions on a hot topic.

What's an editorial?

An editorial is an unbylined piece that represents the views of The Washington Post as an institution.

How does an editorial come together?

Editorial positions are determined through debate among members of the editorial board. Going around the table, each board member pitches ideas from his or her focus area and then opens those ideas up for discussion. We're an opinionated group, so discussions can become heated. But we aim to reach consensus. We're also careful to ensure that our positions reflect stands we've taken in previous editorials and principles that have animated Post editorial boards over time. Although articles in the news pages sometimes prompt ideas for editorials, news reporters and editors never contribute to editorial board discussions. And even if topics have been covered in news articles, editorial board members do extensive reporting of their own -- to sort out the facts and evaluate competing arguments. We also have scheduled meetings at The Post with individuals and interest groups. One day, it may be with a head of state who's passing through town and wants to bring certain issues to our attention. Another day, it may be with an advocacy group pushing a specific initiative. There's no guarantee that meeting with the editorial board will lead to a positive editorial -- or any editorial, for that matter. But we do promise to listen to our visitors -- and to ask tough questions.

Who's on the editorial board?

The editorial board consists of two editors, six writers and cartoonist Tom Toles. Fred Hiatt is editorial page editor and Jackson Diehl is his deputy. Among the writers, Jo-Ann Armao specializes in education and District affairs; Jonathan Capehart focuses on national politics and the environment; Lee Hockstader writes about political and other issues affecting Virginia and Maryland, Charles Lane concentrates on economic policy, trade and globalization; Ruth Marcus focuses on U.S. politics, the budget and taxes and other domestic issues; and Eva Rodriguez specializes in legal affairs.

What's Outlook?

The Post's Outlook section, published on Sundays, incorporates reported opinion essays, news analysis and book reviews. Institutionally and in print, Outlook is separate from the editorial pages. Online, though, we group pieces from both sections under the umbrella of "Opinions." The Outlook section strives to provoke debate and to look ahead of the news. Outlook essays tend to run somewhat longer than op-eds -- up to 1,500 words. The majority of these are solicited by the Outlook editors, but submissions are welcome and can be sent to outlook@washingtonpost.com or: Outlook, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington DC 20071.

How do I find the ombudsman?

Patrick Pexton can be reached at ombudsman@washpost.com or 202.334.7582.

What is an ombudsman?

The ombudsman is a reader representative. He brings concerns about accuracy, fairness and ethics to the attention of Post reporters and editors. And he reports back to readers and critiques how certain decisions were made and certain policies came about. He is not a customer services representative. For issues relating to newspaper delivery, e-mail subscriber services or call 800.477.4679. For issues relating to the mechanics of washingtonpost.com, please go to the customer care center.


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