Guideline | Expectations | How to submit
Colorado is a place of diverse people, ideas and opinions. They’re a big reason why our state is so vibrant. We want our opinion section to be a forum where Coloradans can express that diversity, share their experiences and debate ideas to move our state forward.
That’s where you come in.
We accept guest columns from all corners of Colorado and all types of Coloradans, on any issue that is important to them. These can be hard-hitting opinion columns or personal essays, detailed analyses or big-picture meditations. If you want to pitch an idea for an opinion piece, contact Jeff Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But, first, please read on for the ground rules that all our op-ed writers must abide by. These are derived from our more extensive ethics policy, which can be found at coloradosun.com/ethics.
- Keep it local. The Sun is published by Coloradans for Coloradans. So we want to hear from you about life in Colorado, not about something happening half a continent away.
- Use verifiable facts. Journalism 101 rules apply: use facts and cite your sources, with links if possible.
- Be transparent. Readers need to know if you have a vested stake in the outcome of a debate, so please disclose any professional or advocacy interests you have in the issue you’re writing about.
- Stay civil. We have this forum to debate issues and ideas. It’s not here to smear or insult one another, no matter how much you may dislike someone personally.
- Make it readable. We’re serious about the wellbeing of Colorado and Coloradans, but we’re not an academic journal. Keep it to 700-800 words. Don’t be afraid to write with some color — even have some fun.
Right up front
The Sun does not pay authors for guest opinions.
What to write about
Essays should focus on matters of particular interest to Colorado or have a Colorado perspective on wider topics. That doesn’t mean we don’t want op-eds about national debates. But make sure to relate those debates to Colorado and what they mean for our state. Ask yourself: What do Coloradans need to know about this topic?
Guest columns are not meant to serve as a brochure. We do not publish essays that primarily promote a single business, product or commercial service, or organization. However, to illustrate a larger point, you are welcome to cite one or two examples involving your business.
Nor are columns meant to serve as public-service announcements. Health tips, consumer advice, civic reminders — all of that is good info, but an op-ed column is not the proper vehicle.
Current events might prompt you to submit a column because you, your company or your organization have expertise in a subject that is in the news. However, your essay should do more than merely illuminate you in the reflected light of current headlines. It should, foremost, make a point about the subject that you believe is important for Coloradans to understand.
How to write it
While you are free to express your opinion, essays must be based on facts, and any statements of fact must be provably true. Not sure if something is true? Make a phone call, send an email, knock on a door and put in a little journalistic legwork. It’s your name on the piece; be sure that what you’re writing is true. Whatever you do, don’t guess or assume. And, please, double-check all spellings, including names.
Include links to sources that verify your facts and provide curious readers with more detail. Acceptable sources might include a story by a reputable news outlet, a government report, an academic study, a court ruling or hearing testimony. Links to other opinion columns and to advocacy groups generally are not acceptable.
The Sun submits opinion essays to a fact-checking process. Any statement in an opinion essay that cannot be verified — either by you via citation or link, or by The Sun’s editors — will be deleted.
Complex topics are welcome; complexity is not. Rule of thumb: you have only enough room to make one strong point. Identify the single point you want to make, assemble evidence that supports that point, and use everyday language. If you’re a specialist in the topic, leave out the jargon.
Essays must be civil in tone, and you must offer reliable verification of any statements, actions or positions attributed to other individuals. Ad-hominem attacks and criticisms about someone based on their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, age, income, physical or mental abilities or any other personal trait are not OK.
We encourage you to focus on issues, not on individuals. If you are criticizing something someone said or proposed, be clear that you are critiquing their ideas, not who they are as a person. Be mindful of racist tropes and other inflammatory language historically associated with bigotry. When in doubt, leave it out.
We do not accept characterizations of the motives, thoughts or opinions of other people or institutions without clear substantiation. Don’t speculate.
For any quotations or paraphrasing of statements by other people, we need verification in the form of links to direct quotations from reliable sources.
Essays submitted in response to news stories or commentaries previously published by The Colorado Sun should include the headline and author of the previous piece, the date it was published and an embedded link to the piece. We generally do not publish responses to stories or commentaries published by other outlets.
When to write it
The time between submission and publication can be several weeks. Here’s why:
Our first step is to review each submission to determine if it qualifies for publication. There are lots of them and it takes time. The next step is a thorough reading, and editing. You can expect to be asked to answer questions, provide supporting documentation, and to clarify parts of your essay. Once edits are complete and you have agreed to the final version, the column then moves into The Sun’s publication system and is scheduled for posting. All of this is managed by a part-time editor.
Columns that anticipate an event on a specific date, such as an upcoming vote in a legislature, should be submitted several weeks in advance of that date if possible.
We do not publish anonymous essays.
Columns are published with a photo of the author, and the author’s city of residence.
You may represent a company or organization, but the column must be published under your name, not the name of the company or organization.
Having a professional stake in the column topic does not disqualify you; in fact, your professional experience with an issue is exactly what may give your column authority. But nothing undermines public debate more than suspicion over someone’s motives. So be transparent in why you are writing the op-ed. For example, you should disclose if you are writing about a client, their company or organization, or a person or entity with which you or they have financial ties.
Essays submitted by a representative of an advocacy, trade or political organization should be transparent about the group’s affiliations, clients and funding sources to the extent those are relevant to the essay.
Agents and associates are free to submit essays on behalf of the author. In such cases the sender must specify his or her relationship to the author. Unless the agent indicates otherwise, The Sun will assume he or she has authority to review and approve edits to the column on the author’s behalf.
Exclusivity and republishing
We are supporters of local journalism across Colorado, and we partner with numerous news organizations in the state. We encourage your participation in their op-ed pages.
Even so, we want Sun readers to expect that any opinion essay they read at The Sun is one they have not already encountered elsewhere. For that reason, essays submitted to The Sun must be original and cannot have been published or submitted elsewhere, in whole or part, including on social media platforms.
Essays submitted to us become the property of The Sun and should not be published elsewhere without our permission. It is very likely that we will grant permission; all we ask is that you ask first.
We prefer essays of about 700 to 800 words in length. Longer essays may be shortened at the editors’ discretion. Shorter ones may be returned to you for further development.
All essays are edited by Sun editors. Headlines are written by Sun editors. Final decisions on editing are made by Sun editors. Spellings, punctuation and usage may be changed to conform with Sun editorial style guidelines.
Not all essays submitted are published. We may decline to publish a proposed column for a number of reasons, including:
- It does not align with parts of these guest-column guidelines
- You have published a guest column at The Sun in the past few months
- It makes points similar to those made in an essay we recently published
- It is perceived to be part of an organized letter-writing campaign or has been created by a template
Sun reporters and news editors are not involved in decisions concerning guest opinion submissions, including whether we publish them or not.
How to submit your proposed column
Please send proposed columns to email@example.com.
We prefer no more than four signed authors, but additional authors can be listed in a tagline as contributors.
Please don’t bother with attachments. It’s easier and more foolproof if you paste the essay text directly into the body of the email.
Please do not submit your column via link to a cloud-based location such as Google Docs, Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive. We will place your essay text into our own Google Workspace location for the review and editing process, anyway. If you need to update or revise your essay, you can do it there.
What we need with each column
If your column is selected for publication, please submit:
A clear, color, focused head-and-shoulders photo of each author whose name will appear on the column. The larger the file size the better, but it should be at least 500 KB. Keep the background simple (no signs, no company banners, no landscapes); compose the photo closely to the head and shoulders.
A one-sentence biography of each author for publication that includes only the author’s current city of residence and his or her occupation and/or area of expertise in areas relevant to the topic of the essay.
The email address of each author. We won’t publish those email addresses, but we need them for correspondence and to enable each author to review edits to the column.
Optional: Each author’s Twitter @handle, if each wishes to have it published with the column.