Raise Your Voice
Write a Letter to the Editor
WHY WE WRITE LTEs
Letters to the editor can be written any time you want to shape public opinion, tell others how you feel about people, programs, or ideas, or just inform the public on a certain issue. They are a great way to increase awareness of the issues that you or your organization are working for, as well as to advocate for your cause.
Letters to the editor can also be used to start a community conversation about an issue important to you. A planned series of letters to the editor can stimulate public interest and media coverage. It's up to you to determine when is the best time to start writing the letters, allowing time for them to be published.
Here's a little how-to!
OPEN THE LETTER WITH A SIMPLE SALUTATION.
Don't worry if you don't know the editor's name. A simple "To the Editor of the Daily Sun," or just “To the Editor:” is sufficient. If you have the editor's name, however, you should use it to increase the possibilities of your letter being read.
GRAB THE READER'S ATTENTION.
Your opening sentence is very important. It should tell readers what you’re writing about, and make them want to read more.
EXPLAIN WHAT THE LETTER IS ABOUT AT THE START.
Throughout your letter, remember the rule:
Be concise, and then
Don't make the editor or the general public wait to find out what you want to say. Tell them your key point at the beginning.
EXPLAIN WHY THE ISSUE IS IMPORTANT.
If you are motivated enough to write a letter to a newspaper or magazine, the importance of your topic may seem clear to you. Remember, though, that the general public probably doesn't share your background or the interest. Explain the issue and its importance simply. Use plain language that most people will understand.
GIVE EVIDENCE FOR ANY PRAISE OR CRITICISM.
If you are writing a letter discussing a past or pending action, be clear in showing why this will have good or bad results.
STATE YOUR OPINION ABOUT WHAT SHOULD BE DONE.
You can write a letter just to ''vent," or to support or criticize a certain action or policy, but you may also have suggestions about what could be done to improve the situation. If so, be sure to add these as well. Be specific. And the more good reasons you can give to back up your suggestions, the better.
KEEP IT BRIEF.
Generally, shorter letters have a better chance of being published. So go back over your letter and see if anything can be cut or condensed. If you have a lot to say and it can't be easily made short, you may want to check with the editor to see if you could write a longer opinion feature or guest column.
SIGN THE LETTER.
Be sure to write your full name (and title, if relevant) and to include your address, phone number, and e-mail address. Newspapers won't print anonymous letters, though in some cases they may withhold your name on request. They may also call you to confirm that you wrote the letter before they publish it.
CHECK YOUR LETTER TO MAKE SURE IT'S CLEAR AND TO THE POINT.
A newspaper may not print every letter it receives, but clear, well-written letters are likely to be given more serious consideration.
Special thanks to our friends at The Community Tool Box, a service of the Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas, for this guide!
Burlington Free Press
(Specify if a submission is a Letter to the Editor or for ‘My Turn.’)
St. Albans Messenger
Note: ‘Letter to the Editor’ in your subject line.