10 tips for writing a letter to the editor

Editors of most newspapers provide a readership opinion platform through their letters-to-the-editor columns. These are among the most-read features in the newspaper. When your letter appears on the editorial page, you have acquired a very large audience, which is a cross section of society and represents a wide diversity of opinion.

Following are some suggestions to help you in writing the kind of letter most likely to receive favorable consideration on the editorial desk:

  1. Address your letter “Dear Editor.” This way, the newspaper will know you want it published, not just read by one individual person at the paper.
  2. Express your ideas clearly and concisely. It is a good idea to keep your letter no longer than 250 words.
  3. Confine yourself to one topic. Use simple words, short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. These make for easy reading. Your letter should be timely and newsworthy. Its meaning should be clear.
  4. Plan your first sentence carefully. Make it short and interesting. If you are able to allude to a news article or editorial in the paper addressed, your letter is more likely to be published.
  5. If you write to criticize, begin with a word of appreciation, agreement or praise. It is possible to be frank but civil. A calm, constructive presentation is persuasive. Vitriol puts your letter in the “crank” category.
  6. Help supply the truth that may have been omitted or slanted in reporting the news or editorializing on it.
  7. Use a relevant experience (a situation in your school district) to illustrate a point. When rightly (and tightly) told, it can be persuasive.
  8. Always sign your name and give your address and phone numbers. Editors always call to verify authorship before they publish letters.
  9. Using the internet. Most newspapers accept letters by email. Submitting a letter by email helps in assuring it will be published. The next effective way to submit letters is by facsimile.
  10. Be patient. Your letter may not appear for ten days, two weeks or even longer. Don’t be discouraged if it is not printed. The editor may have received too many letters on the same subject. Try again.

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