How to Write a Letter to the Editor
A Letter to the Editor, often abbreviated “LTE”, is a letter sent to a publication about issues of concern from its readers. If you feel strongly about an issue and want to let people know what you think or want to incite some type of action on the issue, writing and submitting a letter to the editor can be an effective tool. Using a few strategically placed letters can generate plenty of community discussion, and may even catch the media’s attention. While most letters are now submitted electronically in most cases, one can still submit LTEs via postal mail. Letters to the Editor can be a very helpful supplement to advocacy efforts, so we’ve put together some tips on writing and submitting LTEs for your reference.
Here are 10 helpful tips for getting your letters to the editor accepted by the editor:
- Be Concise – The shorter your letter is, the more confidence you show in your position and the more likely someone will be to read your entire letter. Always shoot for a letter around 150 words, even if the word maximum is more than that. Editors have limited space for letters that go to print, and most papers have stated policies regarding length (check the editorial webpage on each publication’s website for information on this; see common AZ publication policies below).
- Be Clear – Make sure your main point and any important supporting points are stated in the first paragraph. If an editor needs to make cuts to the letter you submit, they will usually do so from the bottom up.
- Be Timely – Write your letter within a week of an article if you are responding to an article. Time your letter so that it will be published in the time frame you need attention on the issue at hand.
- Be Relevant - If you can, try to make a connection to your local community or a recent article or event to make your letter relevant. Use local statistics and personal stories to help make your point.
- Be Interesting – Make sure you write to grab a potential reader’s attention and then keep it until the end. Open with an interesting fact or strong statement and keep your points just as interesting throughout the letter.
- Add Credibility - Make sure to include your name AND title. This will add credibility, especially if its relevant to the topic discussed in your letter. In being up front about your connection to a particular issue, it also ensures that no one accuses you of trying to hide your interest in the topic.
- Include Contact Information – For any publications that do not require you to provide contact information, be sure to include it with your letter submission. Many news organizations will call to verify that you wrote the letter you submitted.
- Be Accurate & Avoid Personal Attacks – Letters that contain factual inaccuracies are typically not printed. Show respect for those with opposing opinions. Unnecessary personal attacks can mean that your letter is not printed, or could result in people disagreeing with you on principle.
- PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD – Re-read your letter aloud to assist in checking for grammar and spelling mistakes. If possible, ask another person to read your letter for accuracy and clarity.
- Use Your Network - You do not have to be the only one to write a letter. Letters are often published with multiple signers. You may also have others write letters slightly different than yours for submission. This can ensure that at least one letter gets published, and if multiple letters are published, that the topic stays on the opinion webpage for a longer period of time.
Don’t worry if your letter is not published. Even if your letter is well-written, it may not be published if an editor doesn’t find it relevant or if it addresses the same issue as letters already in circulation. Remember that you can always resubmit a revised version of your letter at a later date. If you are well educated on a certain topic and have credibility in the field, consider writing an opinion editorial (Op-Ed) instead. An “Op-Ed” is a longer opinion piece typically featured on the opinion pages.
Submission Policies & Instructions:
Tucson Daily Star – 150 word max/170 title
Form submission - http://speedway.tucson.com/letters/?template=&action=letter
Flagstaff Daily Sun – 250 word max
Form submission - https://azdailysun.com/forms/online_services/letter/
Capitol Times – 600 words recommended, 800 word max
AZ Republic – 150 word average, no more than 200 words
Form Submission - http://static.azcentral.com/opinion/letters/
Yuma Sun – 350 max
Form Submission - https://www.yumasun.com/site/forms/online_services/letter/
Still feeling lost? Take a look at some published LTE examples from AAPPD Members in the News & Updates section of our website.