Letters to the editor of newspapers are a great way to get an issue into public view. Sharing your experiences and concerns can generate community discussion and encourage editors to cover these issues more.
Politicians often keep an eye on the letters page and have a file of opinions published in local newspapers. It is an easy way for them to keep their finger on the pulse of what is happening in their constituency.
How to write a letter to the editor
Keep your letter short – Under 200 words. Some great letters are just 20-50 words.
Be civil – Keep your letter constructive and aim to get the audience on side. Funny or clever letters are more likely to be published and stick in people’s minds, but avoid sarcasm. And – this is important – don’t defame anyone.
Keep it simple – Make just one or two key points. People read fast, so use short sentences. Avoid jargon or acronyms. Don't assume knowledge. Instead, ask yourself: will my letter make sense to people who don't know much about this issue yet?
Make it relevant – It's good to refer to articles or letters published yesterday or the day before. You can refer to local stories to illustrate your point.
Be personal – Personal stories are often strongly relatable. In a few sentences, what did you experience? How did it make you feel? Why does this matter?
Include a call to action – Ask your readers to do something about the issue, such as demanding action from their local MP etc.
Tips on how to get published
Try to get your letter in before noon for daily newspapers – it’s more likely to get printed.
Include your full name, address and a daytime phone number with your letter. Papers do not print all of this information but may use it for verification.
Don't re-send the same letter again and again – Editors will notice and start to ignore you.
It's often competitive to get published, so don't be concerned if yours doesn't get through.
Even if you don't get published, it is valuable for the editor to hear what people in their community are concerned about. Try your local paper – there's often less competition than in big national newspapers.