Guidelines for Writing a Compelling Letter to the Editor
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A letter to the editor responding to an article or topic in the media can be a great way to get your issue in front of thousands of readers. Not only do you get to make your case, but you also have an implicit nod from the newspaper’s editorial body indicating that your message is worth consideration.
How do you help ensure that your letter is published and is as compelling to readers as possible? Here are seven suggestions:
1. Own your opinion
Newspapers will not publish unsigned letters, so be sure your letter has your name, as well as any other information requested (such as phone number, address, or email; you can find guidelines for submitting letters to the editor on most newspaper websites.). If you are an Affiliate or other organization, think about who can best represent your organizational viewpoint in the letter—is it your Affiliate president? A K-3 teacher? A family child care provider? A parent? Identifying the right person to respond will help make it compelling, and help it be more likely to get published!
2. Keep it short
Most newspapers have restrictions on length, and under 200 words is usually best for keeping a reader’s attention.
3. Start strong
Compelling letters usually pull in the reader with a startling fact, a visceral description, or a strong statement.
4. Use your own words
It can be helpful to use other sources, templates, or talking points as resources for your letter, but don’t simply repeat what others have said or written. Use your own voice.
5. Speak your truth
Readers relate strongly to personal stories. If you have a story to share that illustrates the importance of your issue, include a few sentences that frame your story in your letter.
6. Reinforce with facts
Letters to the editor are opinions, and yours gains credibility when you clearly state data, facts (and sources) that support your point.
7. Ask for action
Don’t shy away from asking readers to support your cause, and give them a specific way to do so in your letter, such as visiting a website to learn more, attending an event, or changing a personal behavior (if appropriate).
This resource is adapted, with permission, from Media Matters: The Complete Guide to Getting Positive Media Attention, found on the Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, website. Review the full guide at http://bit.ly/2aHvZDm.