Writing a letter to the editor is a great way to advocate for your position in the arena of public ideas — but where do you even start?! Here’s how to write a letter to the editor that’s effective, along with some tips that will increase your chances of getting published.
Letter to the Editor Basics
Dozens of people submit letters to the editor every day. Follow these guidelines if you want yours to stand out and be effective.
- Keep it concise. If the publication asks that you keep your letter within a predetermined word limit, follow that guideline. Going over the word count is an easy way to get your letter thrown out.
- Support your statements with attributable facts, and make sure to actually cite the attributions. Do not write “One out of five people does X.” Write “[X organization] says one out of five people does X.”
- Include a clear call to action. Tell people how to get involved and where to learn more. Encourage residents to call their representatives, encourage elected officials to consider new information, etc. Give people an idea of something specific to do.
- If possible, send your letter in a typed format. That can be in an email or using a form submission. If you need to send it via mail, please type it up and print it out. Handwriting can be difficult to decipher.
How to Self-Edit Your Letters
- Read the letter out loud to yourself. This will help you uncover any sentences that are awkwardly constructed and in need of being rewritten.
- Eliminate any redundancies and unnecessary phrases, and be ruthless about it. Every word and sentence should serve a purpose. Your goal is to have your letter published, not to protect your work of art.
- Change the font size on your document. This will highlight any typos or grammatical errors.
Find Opportunities to Write a Letter to the Editor
- Set up Google Alerts. Go to google.com/alerts and type in the keyword you would like to monitor. (You can set up more than one alert.) Each day you will receive an email with every English-language news story that includes that keyword. Scan the email for stories that are local and relevant to your topic of interest, and use that as your hook when sending your letter to the editor of that publication.
- Subscribe to the daily newsletter of your local publications (if they have one). Keep your eye out for stories relevant to your topic of interest, and when you see one, send your letter to the editor using that news story as your hook.
- You can also follow your local news publications on social media. You won’t get the full breadth of their content, but you will see the stories they believe are likely to offer the most engagement for their readers.
Your Letter Was Published! Now What?
- Share it! Post it on social media, include it in any newsletters or email communications, copy it to distribute it at meetings. Encourage people to read, share, get involved, or write a letter to the editor themselves.
Recent Letters to the Editor by LWVSPA Members
Follow in the footsteps of what works. These letters to the editor were recently published and follow our guidelines perfectly.
- “Bill violates basic tenets” by Stacey Kroto, Tampa Bay Times, Jan. 16, 2018
- “Don’t retreat on women’s rights” by Judy Gallizzi, Tampa Bay Times, Nov. 1, 2017
This article is part of our Advocacy and Lobbying training series. The goals of the LWVSPA is to make the residents of St. Petersburg informed and active citizens.
With the right tools, you can make democracy work!