How to write a letter to the editor

Text types – conventions.

Letter to the editor

The Letters to the Editor (LTE) section is the most widely read section of the newspaper after the front page. LTEs are published at the discretion of the paper’s editors. LTEs are usually written in response to a published article, an opinion piece, or current news. As a result, letters must be timely. Be sure to remember these “C’s” when composing an LTE.

Always be:

·         Current – Do not wait more than one day after the publication of the article to write a letter to the editor. Better still, e-mail or fax the letter the same day as the article appeared. (Call to find out whether the newspaper prefers e-mail or fax.)

·         Concise – Make sure to keep the letter short (under 250 words) and to the point.

·         Controversial – Question another’s position but avoid personal attacks.

·         Finally, include Contact information. The newspaper may need verification or more information before it will publish your letter.


1.        Outlet Policies
Outlets have rules that are important to consider when writing a letter to the editor. Common length restrictions are 250 to 300 words. Most require you to provide your name, address, and telephone number so that you may be contacted to verify that you wrote the letter before it is printed. Check for each outlet’s rules on it’s Web site.

2.        Timing
The chances your letter will be published increases if you coordinate your letter to refute, contribute to, or correct recently published pieces from the outlet. You can also write your letter in conjunction with current anniversaries, events, and other news.

3.        Proper Reference
If your letter is a response to a piece or in relation to a specific event make note of this in your letter. Quote referenced headlines and date of publication near the beginning of your letter.

4.        To the Point
Be concise. Make sure the letter complements the broader strategy to move your target audience. How does the letter fit in your communications plan? Make your point.

5.        Know Your Facts
You need to be able to verify any statistics or other facts if the outlet inquires.

6.        Control Outrage
You may care to express outrage or dissatisfaction in your letter. This is acceptable as long as you maintain comprehensibility. If you are extreme, you will sacrifice credibility.

7.        Write in Good Times and Bad
You do not have to limit your letter writing to times of adversity. If an outlet or event positively covers your issue, write a letter praising or thanking this coverage or support.

8.        Write More Than One Letter
Don’t limit yourself to one outlet. Change the content of your letter to match the perceived audience of an outlet, the scope of the outlet, and the location or regional characteristics of the outlet.

9.        Many Angles
Try writing your letter from different angles. Different angles reach different audiences and strike different chords in the same people. Diversify your approach to get through barriers while maintaining your objectives.

10.     Follow Up
Clip published letters and send them to people who can pass them on to your target audience in case they missed them. Keep writing.




Sample Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

Friday’s article, “Sex Encouraged with Comprehensive Education,” questioned the effect of comprehensive sex education on sexual activity. Many people worry that giving youth accurate information about sexual health will encourage them to have sex, but this isn’t so.

Studies have proven that those of us who receive comprehensive sex education are more likely to delay sexual activity and to use contraceptives when we do become sexually active. Even the Surgeon General has declared that it is “imperative and clear that [youth need] accurate information about contraceptives.” Yet, the current administration chooses ideology over science and spends millions of dollars on ineffective and inaccurate abstinence-only programs.

The Responsible Education about Life (REAL) Act would provide states with funding to implement school-based sex education that includes information about both abstinence and also contraception. It is imperative that we urge Congress to support the REAL Act.

(Your Name)
(Your Contact Information)



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