Writing a letter to the editor (LTE) to your local or regional newspaper is an effective and easy way to reach a large audience with your message. LTEs are published on the editorial page, which is one of the most read sections in the paper. Congressional staffers also tell us that members of Congress keep a close eye on media coverage, including LTEs in their local papers, so they can keep a 'pulse' on issues of importance to their constituents. Follow these tips to write your own:
- Respond to an article in the paper. The best letters are those that are in response to an article that ran in the paper, and many papers require that you reference the specific article. Begin your letter by citing the original story by name, date and author. Some papers do occasionally print LTEs noting a lack of coverage on a specific issue — If this is the case, begin your LTE by stating your concern that the paper hasn't focused on this important issue.
- Follow the paper’s directions. Information on how and to whom to submit a letter-to-the-editor is usually found right on the letters page in your paper. Follow these guidelines to increase the likelihood that your letter will be printed.
- Share your expertise. If you have relevant qualifications to the topic you're addressing be sure to include that in your letter.
- Refer to the legislator or corporation you are trying to influence by name. If your letter includes a legislator’s name, in almost all cases staff will give him or her the letter to read personally.
- Write the letter in your own words. Editors want letters in their papers to be original. Feel free to use our messaging tips, but also take the time to write the letter in your own words.
- Keep your letter short, focused and interesting. In general, letters should be under 200 words — often 150 or less is best. Stay focused on one (or, at the most, two) main point(s) and get to the main point in the first two sentences. If possible, include interesting facts, relevant personal experience and any local connections to the issue. If your letter is longer than 200 words, it will likely be edited or not printed.
- Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, address and a daytime phone number; the paper will contact you before printing your letter.