Letters to the editor of your local newspaper are a great way to build public interest around an issue. Writing about pending legislation is one important way to get the attention of elected officials. Letters to the editor are fairly easy to get published if you follow the tips listed below.
Tips for Writing your Letter
Consider how to send your letter. Many newspapers prefer to have letters to the editor emailed to them. Because some papers have a separate e-mail account for letters to the editor, call or look on the newspaper’s website to confirm where you should send the letter. NEVER include attachments in e-mails to the media. Many newspapers have a policy of deleting all mail with attachments. Instead, include your letter in the text of the e-mail. You may also fax or mail your letter.
Include contact information. Newspapers follow up with people who submit letters to the editor before printing the letters (to verify the identity of the author). Be sure to include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when submitting your letter.
Keep it brief. Most papers have a policy of only printing letters that are 200-300 words long. Try to focus on one major point in your letter. If you attempt to tackle too many issues in a single letter your main point may be diluted or confused.
Make it timely. Newspapers are most likely to print a letter that refers or responds to an issue that has been in the news lately, especially if it has appeared in their paper. If you are not responding to such an issue, try to find a way to relate your letter to a recent news topic to make it appear timely and relevant.
Back it up. Provide brief, logical arguments why you are supporting a certain position on an issue. Try to include specific facts and personal anecdotes whenever possible. If you can tell a story about how the issue you are writing about will affect you or your family, be sure to include that information. The more personal your letter, the more likely it is to impact the reader.
Make it local. Local newspapers typically focus on news and letters that will affect their readership. The more you can show that your issue will have a local impact, the more likely it is that the paper will print your letter.
Follow up. Call the newspaper and inquire about whether they received your letter and if they are considering publishing the letter. If they say that they are not interested, be sure to ask why and, if possible, make any suggested changes to your letter and re-submit the piece.
Pass it on. Send a copy of your letter to your state representative and senator and to the OEC. It is very helpful for the OEC to keep track of which letters are being written across the state. Also give copies of your letter to friends and family and ask them to use it as a sample from which to write their own letters.