Writing effective letters to the editor
(adopted from Eric Lindblom)
Why Write a Letter to the Editor?
Writing an effective letter to the editor is not hard to do and it
will have an impact whether or not it is published in your newspaper. Three things happen when you write and mail a letter to the editor:
- Newspaper editors monitor letters they receive closely and make
decisions about both news coverage and what editorials to write based
on how many letters they receive about each issue. They make
decisions based on all letters received and not just on what is printed.
- If your letter is printed, it educates thousands of readers about
nuclear disarmament issues.
- Politicians watch letters to the editor closely as a way to gauge
public concerns. A published letter to the editor carries a
lot of weight with your state's senators and representatives about
their constituents' concerns.
With one short letter, you can impact public opinion, the contents of
your newspaper, and the votes and actions of your legislators. Such
We have included fact sheets with this letter to provide a little background
on some of the issues. Take some time to organize your thoughts.
Think about what are the most important issues for you? What
facts of point of view do you want people to know? What do you
want to convince the reader (or your member of Congress) to do? Once
you've decided these questions, you're ready to sit down and write your
letter, remembering to:
- Keep the letter short (for example, the New Mexican wants
letters to be 150 words or less);
- Show that you care about and believe in what you are writing;
- Make your point/deliver your message;
- Include an interesting fact or argument that might be new to the
- List your name, address, and phone number;
- Type double-spaced or write very neatly;
- Send the original of your letter to the paper and keep a copy for
If space is limited, your chances of getting published are maximized
if you refer to or comment on an article or editorial that already appeared
in the paper. Use it as a "hook" for you own letter. Skim
recent issues, read the headlines, be creative, and you can almost always
find a hook.
- Be Controversial. Take a pro or con position about something
in the paper.
- Be provocative. Make a surprising argument or conclusion.
- Be funny. Use humor.
- Cite some "hot" facts or startling statistics that will wake people
- Relate a personal experience that makes your point.
- Make your letter unique in some way.
- End with a Call to Action.