Support Humanism | Action Center | Writing letters to the editor

Writing Letters To The Editor

Writing letters to the editor of your local or regional newspapers (or even national, for some issues) is an easy and effective way to inform your elected officials and the general public how important a particular issue is to your community and the nation.

"Letters" pages are one of the most highly read sections of newspapers and magazines. From the standpoint of Congressional offices, letters to the editor are impossible to overuse. For many public officials, press represents the overall buzz in the community.

The best way to use letters to the editor are to correct or interpret recently released facts or biased articles, to explain the connection between a news item and your issue of concern, or to praise or criticize a recent article or editorial.

Tips on writing letters to the editor:

Know the policy of the paper regarding publishing letters to the editor. Some papers have specific requirements about the length of letters, whether they are typed or handwritten, and will not publish a letter if you do not include your full name, address, and phone number (although your address and phone number would never be printed).

Be timely. A letter to the editor has the best chance of being printed if it is in response to a recent article, op-ed, or editorial (If the letter is a response, be sure to mention the name and date of the article in the first line of your letter.). You can also capitalize on recent news, events, or anniversaries. For example, the anniversary of an Act or other landmark legislation, the introduction of new related legislation, or the release of a new report that has implications on the issue provide good hooks for writing a letter to the editor.

Stay on message. Be sure your letters are concise, informative, and to the point. Focus on one subject. Keep the length to no more than three or four paragraphs. Make your first line short and compelling, and do not be afraid to be controversial.

Get personal. When it comes to local or regional publications, community is an especially big focus for newspapers. Editors often prefer, and thus print, letters that demonstrate local relevance. Also, by showing the importance of your message to local issues, it will likely have a greater impact on readers.

  • Use local statistics.
  • Use personal stories.
  • Use names of legislators or other public officials where relevant.
  • Use your credentials. If you have expertise in the area you are writing about, state it.

Follow up. Do not be discouraged if you letter is not printed. You can send a revised letter with a different angle at a later date.