Tips On Writing Letters
Most important is “Just Do It Now”. Speak out in your own voice. The following is a compilation of suggestions taken from many experienced sources that you may find useful.
1. Include your NAME, HOME TOWN, E-MAIL ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER and DATE with your letter. Papers will publish only your name and town. Sign paper letters sent via traditional mail.
2. Keep concise, focused and to the point, dealing with a single issue. You may use this site to gather facts on your issue.
3. Follow newspaper guidelines including those for word length, although some papers will allow longer letters on more popular subjects. Contact the editor in advance if you wish to submit a long letter, column or op-ed for their prior approval. Unless otherwise noted keep to 250-300 words. Keep submissions to distant papers especially brief.
4. Editors prefer E-mail or Webform submissions
5. In your title, you may grab the readers attention with something provocative, offer a challenge or ask a question.
6. Think about and organize what you want to say.
- Make your first sentence short, compelling and possibly “catchy”.
- In the first paragraph get your point across and give an overview.
- In the next paragraph/paragraphs give background and supporting information, possibly citing the views or quotes of prominent people or organizations to bolster your views. Be as factual as possible.
- In the final paragraph, suggest what you want the reader to do.
7. Think of connecting with your readers, so be informal and make it easy to read using shorter sentences and avoiding longer words.
8. Personalize and include personal experience where appropriate.
9. Be positive, never abusive, and offer constructive ideas/remedies.
10. A letter may be based on your response to an editorial/letter in that same newspaper.
11. Make your letter timely with respect to what is currently in the news.
12. Many experienced writers suggest that while it is best to write ASAP when you feel the motivation, put the letter aside until the next day to proofread again for common mistakes, and errors in wording or logic.
13. Don’t be discouraged if some letters are rejected. Consider shortening and rewording them for re-submission or submission to other newspapers.
14. If your letter is timely and of general interest consider submitting slightly edited versions to other newspapers as well.
15. Spend the 15 minutes to organize your submission e-mail addresses together as a group in your computer address book and enter your “e-mail Webform” addresses in a “favorites” folder so as soon as you get an idea for a letter you can quickly and easily act on it.
16. Consider writing letters into “txt” or “doc” files, then copying and pasting them where needed when submitting them. This is especially useful for copying your message into “social network” outlets.
17. Language is important. Read “Don’t Think of An Elephant” by George Lakoff to understand how to “Frame” your issues in the strongest ways. The concepts are excellent!
18. Learn the arguments of opposition proponents/candidates to more effectively counter their positions.