Letters to the editor 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.
Your letter should be:
Short – Keep it under 200 words. Some great letters are just 20-50 words.
Civil – Keep your letter constructive and aim to get the audience on side.
Simple – Make just one or two key points. People read fast, so use short sentences.
Relevant – It's good to refer to articles or letters published yesterday or the day before.
Tips 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.
Writing your letter
Generally newspapers publish what they see as well-written and articulate letters that are relevant to current or local issues and points of view, or that give a thoughtful perspective on complex issues and events.
Newspapers generally don’t publish rants, although they do publish short and pithy letters.
Grab the reader's attention. Compelling letters often pull in the reader with a startling fact, a visceral description, or a strong statement. Personal stories are often strongly relatable. In a few sentences, what did you experience? How did it make you feel? Why does this matter? Be succinct but evocative.
Make a brief, clear and punchy argument that grabs attention and focus on one important point. Try to make it relevant with personal or local stories to illustrate your point.
Write to convince the reader. What do readers need to hear to be moved to action? Will your letter make sense to people who don't know much about your issue or what needs to be done about it? Use your own words.
Don’t overstate or exaggerate your points – one overstatement makes every following point suspect. Don’t get angry – don’t insult the editor, the newspaper, or the authors of previous letters.
Keep your letter short. Remove every non-essential word. Don’t say, “I think...” – it’s obvious. This also minimises the chance of editors changing the letter. Avoid jargon or acronyms – spell out any name the first time you use it, followed by the acronym in parentheses.
Ask for action. Explain why this issue matters, and ask people to do something about it – such as being a climate voter, demanding action from their local MP and so on.
It's often competitive to get published, so don't be concerned if yours doesn't get through. Try your local paper – there's often less competition than in big national newspapers.