Writing a letter to the editor

Posted 09 June 2005

The following tips come from a letter editor at a major city daily newspaper. Here is what he advises to increase your chance of publication:

  • Include name, address, and daytime phone. Sign the letter and don't use pseudonyms.

  • Keep it short. The ideal letter should be no more than 100 words, 200 words at the most. You may include additional information to support your arguments, but outside the text of the actual letter.

  • Be timely. Comment on fresh news.

  • Focus on one concept or idea. Don't confuse readers with multiple issues or messages.

  • Research published letters. Read the letter page to see what gets selected and tailor your letter accordingly. Humor, genuine emotion and accuracy are pluses, while name-calling, lengthy commentary, incendiary statements and inaccuracies are detrimental to your letter's chance of getting published.

  • Don't use a form letter. It will likely be routed to the wastebasket.

  • Make it interesting. Try to avoid what other letter writers have already written.

Finally, persistence pays off. Many newspapers receive over 1,000 letters a week, and as a result, most will not be published. So if you don't succeed the first time, don't be discouraged and try again!

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