How To Write a Letter to the Editor

Voter Info | September 7, 2017

Why write a letter to the editor?

The letters sections of newspapers and magazines are prime forums for getting your message to a wide audience. Letters to the editor in local and regional papers are read by local activists, government officials, legislators and many community members. You can probably think of many more specific reasons why you might want to write to the editor, but here are a few general ones:

  • You are angry about something, and want others to know it
  • You think that an issue is so important that you have to speak out
  • Part of your group’s strategy is to persuade others to take a specific action

Or you want to:

  • Suggest an idea to others
  • Influence public opinion
  • Educate the general public on a specific matter
  • Influence policy-makers or elected officials directly or indirectly
  • Publicize the work of your group and attract volunteers or program participants

Tips for writing letters to the editor

Be timely.  While you can write a letter any time, you will have the highest chance of being published if you can relate your topic to a recent article or local event.

Keep it brief, under 250 words.  Most large newspapers only allow 150 words or less.

Be clear and concise.  Talk about only one or two main points and get your argument across as early as possible as editors often cut from the bottom up.

Include your full name, address, and a daytime phone number.  Editors will need to verify your identity before they publish your letter, but only your name and city will be published. If you don’t want your name to be published, state so clearly in a separate paragraph at the end of your letter. If you are a minor, inform the editor of this as well.

Read the editors’ instructions. Most publications provide guidelines. Look over the first few pages of your publication for a set of suggestions and guidelines and follow them carefully.

Here is an example letter:

Sen. Patty Ritchie deserves a round of applause for championing legislation that will help struggling farms throughout New York.

On June 12, the state Senate approved the Food Metrics Bill (S.4061/A5102) that will set New York on a path toward expanding the use of fresh and locally grown food.

Sponsored by Ritchie, the Food Metrics Bill would require state agencies to establish a purchasing, tracking and reporting system that will provide baseline data about money being spend on food and the geographic source of such food.

The bill also lays the groundwork to encourage state agencies to buy more food grown on farms in New York. That means fresh and healthy foods will reach more New Yorkers and taxpayers will save money on the cost of transporting food from distant sources. Northern New York farms will benefit too, because of the increased demand for the products.

Now it is up to the Assembly to act. The Food Metrics Bill is currently before the Assembly’s Committee on Ways and Means, and with this year’s legislative session set to end on June 20, time is of the essence. New York farms can’t wait.

Marcia Bystryn
New York
This writer is president of the NY League of Conservation Voters

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