Letters to the editor and opinion pieces are very powerful advocacy tools. The editorial section of a newspaper is widely read by the public and is monitored by elected officials. In a letter to the editor or opinion piece, you can bring up information not addressed in a news article, and can create the impression of widespread support or opposition to an issue. When you write a letter to the editor, be sure to do the following.
- Adhere to word count requirements. This information can usually be found, online and in print, on the same page as the letters that are published. Generally, as few as 250 words are the maximum.
- Open with a strong statement, and be sure to place the most important information at the beginning. Often, letters and pieces are edited to fit the space available in that issue of the newspaper -- most often they are cut from the bottom up, so placing the important information anywhere but at the top could result in its being omitted.
- Use a personal story or illustration to make your point in plain language. If at all possible, tie your letter to a recent piece of news, editorial, or a prior letter to the editor, and, if you do so, reference the title and date of the article in your letter. If you are referring to a newspaper article, send your letter as soon as possible after an article has been published in the paper.
- Use email to submit your letter. Editors like email because they will not have to re-key your letter for print. An email address for the letter to the editor/opinion sections of the newspaper will likely be found on the editorial page (print or online). Send your letter or opinion piece to weekly and community newspapers as well. The smaller the newspaper’s circulation, the more likely your letter will be published.
- In your signature line include your name, daytime and evening telephone numbers, email address, and mailing address so the paper can verify that you wrote the letter. Some editors may write or call to confirm your information. Only your name and city will be published.
Let us know! Did you send a letter to the editor or an opinion piece to your local newspaper? Please forward a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org and complete this short report form.
If your letter or opinion piece does run in the newspaper, please send us a clipping: SLATE Responses, NCTE, 1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096; fax: 217-278-3760; email@example.com.