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  Tips for Writing Letters to the Editor

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Letters to the Editor are one of the most widely read sections of the newspaper and reach a large audience. They allow community members to comment on the way issues are being addressed in the media and to influence what topics the local paper covers. Elected officals often monitor this section of the newspaper and take notice of constituents' opinions.

Due to strict space limitations in newspapers, not all letters will be published, but the more letters the newspaper receives on a certain topic, the more likely they are to run at least one letter on the topic. Check the letter guidelines in your local paper and use these tips to write an effective letter to the editor:

Keep it short and focused.

Many newspapers have strict length limits and edit letters for space. A concise, single-issue letter has a better chance of retaining its salient points and keeping the reader's interest. Even complicated issues can usually be explained and commented on in 200 words or less.

Make specific references.

While some newspapers will print general commentary letters, most prefer letters that respond to a specific article. Here are some ways to refer to an article:

"I was impressed by the solutions presented by your editorial 'Saving Social Security' in your January 3rd issue."

"I strongly disagree with Senator Coleman's position against increased fuel economy standards 'To be or SUV' (June 22)."

Be factual and highlight aspects of the issue that havenít been previously addressed.

Having nothing original to say will almost certainly send your letter into the waste basket. If what you have to say is not entirely new put a new twist on it or include information readers may not already know.

Include your contact information.

Many newspapers will only publish a letter to the editor after verifying the authorís contact information. When printed, the letter will usually only include your name and city.

Alway include:
  • Your full name
  • Your full address
  • Your telephone number (including area code)

Including your email address may also be useful.

If you are an expert in a field related to the issue being discussed (for example: a climatologist commenting on global warming) definitely include that information as well because it will greatly increase your chance of being published.

Type your letter and sign it.

Typed letters are much easier for editors to read. An unsigned letter will likely be rejected immediately since the editor has no way of verifying that the letter was authored by you.

Send letters to smaller newspapers.

Small newspapers are more likely to print your letter and the letter can then spark local community action.

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