Writing letters to the editor

Letters to the editor are one of the best (and easiest) ways to get an unfiltered message about a particular issue out to the community. They are generally brief, to the point, and in response to a previously written article, or other public event.

newspaperIt’s the case with many newspapers that more people read the editorial page than any other section of the paper. What’s more, letters to the editor carry a certain credibility because they come from average citizens, and the public does not view them with the same bias with which they view the rest of the paper.

Here are some tips when writing a letter to the editor:

  • If you want to submit a letter to the editor, you generally want to begin by referring to a specific topic, previously published article in the newspaper, or to a well-known event. Referring to a previously written article helps make the letter relevant to the newspaper staff, and it is more likely to get printed.  “In response to your recent article on AIDS in Africa [date] . . .”
  • Following your opening sentence, you should immediately begin to make the case for why you are writing the letter. If the news story that was written missed an important point, say so, and explain why it is important. If a news event did not provide the full story, give the full story. If someone gave an explanation that was unclear or misleading, clarify the point for the newspapers’ readers.
  • When you close the letter to the editor, you should include some call to action for the general public. What exactly this is will depend on the circumstances, but it could be calling their MLA or attending a meeting.
  • The length of your letter to the editor depends on your local paper. Different papers like different length letters. If you send in a letter that is too long, either it won’t be printed, or it will be cut down to the size the paper wants. In general, it is better to have a shorter letter than a longer one, as it is more likely to be read. (Between 150 and 200 words is a good rough guide.)
  • When you send in your letter to the editor, you must include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Your name is needed because anonymous letters are not as credible as those that are signed, and the large majority of newspapers will not publish them anyway. Your address is also a good idea because newspapers prefer to print letters from local readers, and once again, it holds more credibility to elected officials. Your phone number is necessary because a newspaper will only print your letter once they have verified that you actually wrote it.  – Maria Loscerbo