Writing A Letter To The Editor (of a newspaper)

This post is about writing effective Letters to the Editor (LTE) or Op-Ed pieces that I gleaned from other places. I am posting this information here to help me remember the ideas. I personally am not a proficient letter writer, yet. Maybe the ideas will help others too.

Why write Letters to the Editor or Op-Eds? Besides sharing ones views with our neighbors, we know that politicians read this section of the paper!

Before you yourself write to the Newspapers, you should also be reading the paper! Especially the opinion pages. Papers will only publish a Letter to the Editor (LTE, or an Op-Ed, for that matter) if it references and is relevant to a news item or opinion piece the newspaper has recently published. So you have to be a detective and look for the opportunities.

If you have particular issues you are concerned with you can set up Google Alerts for the newspapers you want to monitor about particular subjects. If you are simply “reacting” to a given article or current event, you can still use these methods to improve the likelihood that your efforts will have meaning.

Here, in order of the likelihood of getting responded to, are the kinds of pieces in newspaper to which you can respond. When you respond to pieces at the top of the list you are more likely to be published.

  • Editorials
  • Front page stories
  • Staff columnists (not syndicated)
  • Op-eds, then other letters
  • Other stories

Actually writing your letter or article: LTE’s are the most meaningful form of advocacy. If possible and relevant, include the name of the politician or other VIP that you’re trying to influence. LTEs can be written using a simple recipe:

  • Begin by referring to the original article / columnist / letter or op-ed writer
  • Transition by showing the relationship of the original article to your concern
  • Present a solution
  • Clearly make a call to action
  • Close with a zinger

Of course, it is assumed that you abide by the rules of the given newspaper regarding methods (size, signature email address,etc.). Follow the rules, speak politely and honestly, and you may be published. We all want to communicate, but few of us ever do. We don’t all have to agree, but we should all be heard. Please don’t let Facebook be your only forum!

Note: Google Alerts is a service that generates search results based on criteria provided by you that delivers the results to your e-mail account “automatically”.  This service is particularly useful for monitoring the web when you don’t have time to remember every day!  Just go to http://www.google.com/alerts, use your Google ID, and build your query along with the repetition pattern you prefer. Then set back, relax, and only “new” results will be delivered to whatever email address you selected.  Google Alerts can be used for just about anything, from genealogy searches to locating new information about your company, your kids, your online content’s popularity or your competition. You can also use it to keep up to date with new advancements, celebrity gossip or current trends.  Whatever search criteria you can build can be used. Even if you never every write a LTE, you should still learn about using Google Alerts. The delete key can ignore an item in your email faster that you can write the query over and over.

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