Write a Letter to the Editor

Letters that are intended for publication should be carefully drafted. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Make one point (or at most two) in your letter, email or fax. State your opinion clearly in the first sentence, if possible.

Make your letter timely. Address a specific article, editorial or letter that has recently appeared in the paper, or tie the issue to a recent event.

Know your paper:

  • Familiarize yourself with the coverage and editorial position of your paper.
  • Refute or support specific statements, address relevant facts that are ignored, but do avoid blanket attacks on the media in general or the newspaper in particular.
  • Look at the letters that appear in your paper. Is a certain type of letter usually printed?

Follow the paper’s guidelines. Check the letter to the editor guidelines of the newspaper to which you are writing. Length and format requirements vary from paper to paper. (Generally, roughly two short paragraphs are ideal.) You also must include your name, signature, address, phone number and often email address.

Support your facts. If the topic you address is controversial, consider sending documentation along with your letter. But don't overload the editors with too much information.

Keep your letter brief. 

Type your letter or email it whenever possible.

Use simple language and avoid acronyms or jargon. 

Find others to write letters. This will show that other individuals in the community are concerned about this issue. If your letter doesn't get published, perhaps someone else's on the same topic will.

Monitor the paper for your letter. If your letter has not appeared within a week or two, follow up with a call to the editorial department of the newspaper.

Identify your affiliation, if any. Sign your letter as an individual or, if appropriate, as a representative of a community group. Avoid saying you are a member of a particular organization if you are not speaking for that organization.

RETURN TO TIPS FOR MEDIA OUTREACH