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by Ilana Ostrin   |   April 15, 2020

How to Be An Advocate While at Home: Write an Op-Ed!

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, you’re likely at home. Maybe you’ve taken up some new hobbies, or reconnected with some friends you haven’t spoken to in a while. In this scary time, some good has come out of individuals self-isolating and self-distancing to protect their fellow brethren. One way to continue this good is to advocate for causes you care about, even from the comfort of your own home.

One opportunity to make an impact as a “couch warrior” is to write an op-ed. Publications around the country are thirsty for content unrelated to the spread of the virus, so an op-ed on the prostate cancer cause could be just what they’re looking for. And an op-ed gives you a chance to share WHAT you care about and WHY you care about it with your community.

So what should your op-ed focus on? It’s up to you. Maybe you care about cancer patients being able to access affordable care, or you want at-risk men to seek early screening once they’re able to (after the stay-at-home orders are lifted — though we admit, seeking a digital rectal exam likely isn’t the contact most men envision after not even being able to hug their loved ones! A possible headline could read as Post Quarantine Goals for Anytown Men: Get Prostate Checked). 

Or, if your annual ZERO Run/Walk has been postponed to a later date, you want your community to know how important the event is to local patients and families. (Here’s a headline idea for ya: Delay in Annual Prostate Cancer Event Allows for Community Reflection)

Writing an op-ed may seem daunting, but follow these tips to make it easier:

– Ask yourself: Is the point you’re making clear? Is the argument convincing?
– Is the audience I’m writing for one that will care about this issue?
– Is there a counterargument your critics would bring up? Refute it in advance with facts
– Remember your grammar school teacher’s advice: Stick to active verbs, and avoid acronyms, adverbs, or cliches
– Use specific references and facts (these numeric breakdowns of prostate cancer might be helpful to you!)
– End with a call-to-action for the reader. What can they do in the community to help with the issue?

In submitting your op-ed, be sure to offer it to only one publication at a time. Only offer it to another if a publication declines to run it. Be sure to follow instructions on how to submit and know the requirements. For instance, some outlets like to receive submissions by email, while others have a form to fill out. And follow the word count rules! Don’t go over the set limits. For instance, a local Bay Area outlet, The Mercury News, has clear instructions to submit over email and plainly lays out their word count and other requirements.


When in doubt, turn to the end-all-be-all of all things op-Eds. The
New York Times is world-renowned for their editorial section, and they lay out some great insights. Want more advice on writing an op-ed? I’m happy to help! Email me at ilana@zerocancer.org