Letter Writing: Letters to the Editor

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Getting mail is a ton of fun, but in an increasingly digital world, writing it can sometimes be hard. This blog post series about Letter Writing aims to make it easier.


In a world of comment threads, it is easy to give your opinion, but there is still a place for the well-written Letter to the Editor or Op Ed note.  Letters to the Editor respond to recently published articles; Op-Ed. Letters express an opinion about a current event or  trend, but  are not  necessarily  responding to a specific article. Both follow the same basic guidelines, and can serve to make your voice heard.
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photo credit: NS Newsflash via photopin cc

First, pick your topic and what publication you are sending your letter to. If you are writing in response to an article, write to  the paper that published it.  If you writing about a more general topic, consider which publications have an interested audience.  Magazines tend to attract like-minded readers; newspapers have a more general readership. Certain publication will also be aimed at certain geographical regions, such as a local paper. Remember too- you are more likely to  be published at a smaller publication.


Look up if there are any guidelines from the publisher, but a good rule of thumb is to use a business letter format for the heading. Include your full name and contact information; most publications like to verify the identify of writers, but won’t publish contact information. The salutation can be “Dear Editor,” or can address the writer of the article you are responding to.


The body of the letter should be short- the shorter the better! Start by addressing your topic. If you are responding to a specific article, make sure to state the name of the piece and date published. Next, state your opinion and, if relevant, why you are an authority on the subject (for example, a teacher might be an authority on the 21st century classrooms or a doctor on vaccinations).  After this, provide the evidence to back up your opinion. Evidence could include facts (if  well-researched!), but could also include local events or even a personal narrative that proves a larger point. Also, if you are talking about a problem, give a solution; write a call to action. What can the reader do to help?


photo credit: Armando G Alonso ✈︎ via photopin cc
Other good tips include using a professional tone, and not bashing those with opposing opinions- it only makes you look less sure of your stance. Try to humanize the story and tell people why they should care. Lastly, make sure you only address a single topic at a time.


Taken together these tips will help you to take on the world of writing letters to editors, so you can change the world one envelope at a time!


Further Reading:
Letters to the Editor Guidelines from Student News Daily


LETTER WRITING SERIES: THANK YOU NOTES | PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE | LOVE LETTERS | SYMPATHY LETTERS | CONGRATULATORY LETTERS | POSTCARDS | LETTERS OF APPRECIATION | CORRESPONDENCE CHESS | GET WELL CARDS | LETTERS TO SICK CHILDREN | INVITATIONS | HOLIDAY LETTERS | LETTERS TO SANTA| LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION | LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | CIRCLE LETTERS | LETTERS TO POLITICIANS | WRITING TO ADVICE COLUMNS | THE LETTER WRITING GAME | PENPAL LETTERS | LETTER OF COMPLAINT | COVER LETTERS | LETTERS TO PRISONERS | OPEN LETTERS | LETTERS TO FUTURE YOURSELF | LETTERS OF APOLOGY | "OPEN WHEN" LETTERS | FAN MAIL | GOOD BYE LETTER |

7 comments

  1. Getting mail has to be one of the best things ever. I like sending it, too! I just bought some Harry Potter Forever Stamps and they are awesome :)

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  2. As the person in charge of letters to the editor for the newspaper where I work, all I have to say is, HEAR, HEAR! If only everyone followed your instructions — it would make my job 1,000 times easier!

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    1. Glad these instructions seem to be on the right track! :D

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  3. fun story regarding this- in my 7th grade English class we were encouraged to write to the editor of our paper, and if we got published, we got extra credit! I actually made it one time, and I can't remember exactly what I wrote about...it was some scandal with an athlete and how he wasn't being a good role model.

    I always enjoy reading these posts!

    ♥ perfectly PRIYA

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    Replies
    1. Okay- cool teacher and even cooler that you got published :)

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  4. hmm, I've always wanted to do something like that!

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