Writing a Letter to the Editor (source: Texas Freedom Network)
Studies show that Letters to the Editor sections are among the most-read parts of a newspaper. You can be sure that elected officials – or their staff members – read those sections regularly. In addition, letters to the editor are free and relatively easy to submit to newspaper editors. As a result, such letters can be effective ways of influencing public opinion (and the votes of policymakers who pay close attention to public opinion).
Don’t be discouraged if your letter isn’t published. Numerous letters on a particular topic can alert editors to the importance of a particular story and improve the chances that at least one of the letters on that topic will be published.
Writing Your Letter
- Follow the newspaper’s guidelines for length. Ideally, keep your letter shorter than 150 words.
- Focus on one point and state it clearly at the beginning of your letter.
- Make sure your letter is timely. Try to tie your point to a recent news item, editorial, letter or event.
- If you are responding to someone’s comments, don’t waste your limited space by repeating them. Focus on your own point.
- Keep it simple. Avoid using complicated sentences and big words.
- Avoid personal attacks, offensive language and political name-calling (e.g, “far right,” “extremist”). Such language will turn off the average reader.
Submitting Your Letter
- Newspapers typically list on their editorial pages or Web sites the postal and email addresses for submitting letters to the editor. Submit your letter by email (preferred) or by fax. If neither is possible, send by mail as soon as possible to lessen the time between possible publication and the event about which you are writing. If you don’t find an address, you can call the newspaper’s main number for the information.
- Include your contact information (daytime and home phone numbers, address and email, if available) so that the newspaper can verify that you sent the letter.
- Clip your letter and the header of the page on which it is printed – including at least the name of the newspaper and the date. Then photocopy the letter and header together on one page and fax your copies to your elected officials. Include a personal note indicating that you are a constituent.