Community Outreach

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor are a public way to share your opinion with your elected officials. They can also help inform the newspaper’s readership of your opinion and can initiate or contribute debate on public policy.

Every letter may not be published, but newspaper editors pay attention to well-written letters, especially if there are many on the same subject. Below are guidelines for writing a letter to the editor.

Read submission guidelines

  • Learn what the newspaper’s submission guidelines are and follow them.
  • Be brief and keep your message simple. A general rule is 200-250 words maximum, but check your newspaper’s submission guidelines. Limit yourself to 3 paragraphs, with 1-3 short sentences per paragraph.
  • Include your name, mailing address, email address, and phone number.
  • If you have had a letter published recently, wait a month or so before submitting another. In the meantime, encourage your friends to submit letters.
  • Letters can usually be sent via email or postal mail. However, email is often preferred for timeliness. Send your letter in the body of the email. Do not send it as an attachment.
  • If your letter is printed, send a short email to the editorial editor thanking he or she for publishing your letter.
  • Share your letter using social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Be brief and clear

  • Stick to one message. State this message clearly in the first sentence.
  • Clearly state your “ask.” Types of asks include asking your legislator to vote in a certain way and asking readers to call their legislators
  • Use spell check and have someone else review your letter before it is submitted.

Be relevant and accurate

  • Back up your position with facts.
  • Explain why the issue is important.
  • Try responding to an article or another letter to the editor. Don’t attack the author. Instead, offer your opinion in a way that encourages debate on the issue. Reference the original article by date and headline.

Be unique

  • Make it relevant to your community. When possible, use local statistics and personal stories.
  • Larger newspapers receive many letters to the editor each week, and can only select a small number for publication. To help yours be selected, offer a unique point of view or add depth to a current discussion.

Additional Resources

Influence Editorials: Conduct an Editorial Board Meeting (Community Catalyst)

About that First Tweet: A Practical Guide to Social Media for Charities & Social Enterprises