How To Write a Letter to the Editor

One of the most widely read features in a newspaper is the section of letters to the editor. The letters section also represents a reader's best chance to be published in the newspaper, and for nothing more than articulately stating an opinion. However, lots of letters are received by editors every day. To get your noticed, write it with the following tips in mind:

  1. The first sentence should reference what it is you are writing about. Don't start by telling about yourself, your experience with whatever it is, or that you are a subscriber to the newspaper, etc. If you are writing in about your reaction to a news story, reference the story with its title and the name of the writer right away. If the subject is an event or problem in the community, start out by describing it. Anything that has a long meandering introduction before getting to the point of the letter is not likely to be read.
  2. Keep the letter itself short. A long letter will need excessive editing to make it fit, and if there is no time at the newspaper to do this, the letter simply won't be picked. Newspapers run on deadlines. Making the letter easy for the staff to read and edit will increase the likelihood of letter being chosen.
  3. Double-space the letter to make it easier to read. A short letter that is double-spaced is much easier and quicker to handle than a long single-spaced one. Also, keep in mind that letters sent through the mail generally have to be typed up by a secretary or copy editor in order to get them into the computer for editing. Having the letter double-spaced makes it easier to keep pace with each line as it is being re-typed.
  4. Make sure that your letter is grammatically correct and has no spelling errors. Unless your letter is extremely unique and special, it will be thrown out if it is barely legible due to misspellings and long, awkward sentences. Be sure to proofread the letter a few times to end up with a draft that is worthy of print.
  5. Include your contact information. Unless otherwise specified, you will need to put your name and phone number, as well as your city and state, at the end of the letter. This is to verify that the letter was actually written by you and not someone playing a practical joke. It sounds strange, but does in fact happen.

When you are ready to mail or fax a letter to the editor, be sure to use the correct address for letters. Many newspapers have a separate address, sometimes a P.O. Box, specifically for letters. There may also be a separate fax number for letters. If the address for letters is not specified, call and find out the exact address and to whom you should address it.


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