Effective Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor are an effective and inexpensive means of getting your message out. Remember, among readers likely to pay attention to political issues. In a newspaper, more pay attention to the letters to the editor page than to the editorials or the columnists.

There are five keys to effective letters to the editor:

  1. Provide a news story tie-in. Letters that don’t relate to current issues and news stories are less likely to be published. If you can, refer to an article printed in the paper to which you are sending your letter and do it right away. Waiting a week (or even a few days) will make your letter too late. If there isn’t such an article, provide a tie-in in your lead sentence.
  2. Keep it short!. Editors of letters sections don’t print long letters-they edit them and make them shorter-if they print them at all. The more you put in a letter, the more an editor has to cut and the less likely your letter will read as you wanted it to. Keep your letter short-three or four short sentences is best-and try to make only one point. That is all the reader is likely to understand anyway.
  3. Be straightforward and respectful; don’t be sarcastic. Too many writers of letters to the editor use sarcasm to make their point. Unfortunately, sarcasm is lost in print. Say what you need to say clearly and concisely and in a straightforward manner. Otherwise you will leave your readers confused.
  4. What you need to include in your letter; If you wish your thoughts to be considered as a possible letter to the editor, you need to forward your complete, local home mailing address as well as a daytime number where you can be reached for verification purposes. In most cases only your name and city of residence will be published.
  5. Avoid personal attacks against any reporter or media outlets at all costs.