Letters to the Editor
Writing letters in response to articles in widely circulated newspapers is a great advocacy tool.
After you write letters to your members of Congress, sending letters to the editor can achieve other advocacy goals because they:
- reach a large audience,
- are often monitored by elected officials,
- can bring up information not addressed in a news article, and
- create an impression of widespread support or opposition to an issue.
Keep it short and on one subject. Many newspapers have strict limits on the length of letters and have limited space to publish them. Keeping your letter brief will help assure that your important points are not cut out by the newspaper.
Be sure to include your contact information. Many newspapers will only print a letter to the editor after calling the author to verify his or her identity and address. Newspapers will not give out that information, and will usually only print your name and city should your letter be published.
Make references to the newspaper. While some papers print general commentary, many will only print letters that refer to a specific article. Here are some examples of easy ways to refer to articles in your opening sentence:
- I was disappointed to see that The Post’s May 18 editorial “School Vouchers Are Right On” omitted some of the key facts in the debate.
- I strongly disagree with (author’s name) narrow view on women’s reproductive rights. (“Name of Op-Ed,” date)
- I am deeply saddened to read that Congressman Doe is working to roll back affirmative action. (“Title of Article,” date)
Be timely. Your letter will become irrelevant very quickly. You need to get it into the very next edition. If your letter relates to something in Monday’s paper, send your letter to the editor before 1:00 p.m. on Monday. If you cannot send your letter as an email, don’t bother. In some cases, if you miss your chance to comment on the original story, you may be able to comment on the ensuing letters or columns (i.e. you can comment on the commentary). But earlier is always better.
Be bold. If you are taking the time to write a letter, surely you have an opinion. State it in no uncertain terms right up front. In life, seek balance and understanding. In letter writing, don’t.
Be funny. Funny letters get published. Humor is one of the most effective ways of communicating—ask any advertiser. Send funny letters to the editor.
Be easy. Editors don’t want to waste any time. Make it easy for them to publish you. There are many ways you can help them. Follow their rules regarding letters (check the paper’s website). Spell everything correctly.
- Find your Congress members’ contact information and write them
- Identify articles in widely read papers and respond to them using our tips