How to Write Letters to the Editor
The letters to the editor section of your local newspaper presents an ideal forum for getting your message to its readers: your neighbors, legislators, or members of the Congressional Delegation. This is a great way to build public support for your issue and let elected officials know it is important. More people read the letters to the editor section than any other part of the paper (except the comics, of course.) Here are a few guidelines for getting your letter to the editor printed:
- Keep your letter short and to the point - generally 250 words. Check the newspaper's guidelines for maximum length.
- Avoid rambling sentences and big words.
- Type the letter—double-spaced, one page maximum.
- Limit the number of points you make and stay on that subject.
- Be as factual as possible without being dull.
- Personalize your letter—explain how the issue will affect you, your neighbors, your area.
- Emphasize the positive when possible. When you criticize, also propose a better alternative, when possible.
- Include your full name, address, and telephone number because the newspaper will try to reach you before they print the letter to verify that you are the actual letter writer.
- Encourage your friends and neighbors to write as well.
- Your letter stands the best chance of getting printed when it responds to something recently printed in that newspaper, such as a news story, column, or editorial. Use the reference to that item as a springboard for stating your case.
Your letter can support or expand on something already in the news, make a point, that was omitted, or disagree with and correct misinformation in whatever form it appeared.
Don’t be afraid to ask for action! You can be sure your elected representatives read the letters to the editor. Tell what you want them to do.
Submit your letter via email if possible. It's fast and convenient for the newspaper, meaning it may run in a more timely manner. Check the letters page of your newspaper for information on how to submit letters.
Search a list of media outlets and contacts.
Adapted from National Audubon Society materials and Maine League of Conservation Voters.