Not sure how to write a letter to the editor? Confused about the content and structure? This article aims to answer all your queries related to letter writing. Read along to learn more about letter writing and increase the chances of your letter getting accepted for publication.
Letter writing is an essential skill. Be it a formal or an informal letter, both have a predominant role in the world of writing. It is believed that writing a letter helps relieve anxiety and provides peace and clarity.
Unlike a phone call or a text message, a letter is a tangible piece of communication. It is a great way to feel connected to each other and keep memories alive. This screen-free activity gives you time to evaluate your thought-process before you write back. It is one of the best ways to put your feelings into words.
Every letter serves a specific purpose. You may be writing to your loved ones asking about their health or sending a letter to the head office of your company asking for a raise. Either way, a letter is a great way to communicate. That being said, never underestimate the power of letter writing.
In a list of many different types of letters, there is one that is not as enthusiastically taught in educational institutions- letter to the editor. Although just as important, this type of letter writing has been undervalued for quite some time now.
It serves as a medium for people to voice their opinions and to be heard. You do not require any specific academic qualifications to write a letter to the editor. Nonetheless, there are some other specifications and tactics you need to follow to ensure that your letter gets selected.
In this article we will talk all about how to write a letter to the editor. We will discuss the do’s and don’ts followed by a few tips that will allow your letter to stand out.
What is a letter to the editor?
A letter to the editor can be defined as a formal comprehensive letter that is addressed to the editor of any newspaper or magazine. The intent of writing this letter is to complement, critique, inform or communicate a certain piece of information to the readers. Selected letters are then selected for publication in the newspaper or magazine where the letter has been sent.
If there’s an issue you feel strongly about and want to know to let people know what you think. This is the best way to do it. By writing a letter to the editor, you can even influence the right audience to take action on a certain issue. It gives you the opportunity to talk to people beyond our family and friend circle. Thus, they are an effective way to get the word out.
While some schools teach how to write a letter to the editor as a part of their standard curriculum of written English, others don’t. Hence, many students around the world resort to online spaces to learn how to write this type of letter.
It is an important form of writing which reflects the writer’s personality, mannerism and perceptions. These letters are always appreciated by newspapers and magazines. They are generally short and aim to raise concern about some issue. It could be either national or international.
Letters to the editors are usually found in the first section of the publication towards the beginning or in the editorial page. However, this can differ depending on the type of newspaper or magazine. Through this letter, you can choose to take a position in favor or against an issue or simply inform and sometimes both. You can convince the reader through the use of facts and emotions as well. As long as you sound persuasive without going overboard with emotions, your letter is likely to be published.
Letters to the editor are short and crisp and are usually no longer than 300 words. The purpose of this letter can vary from person to person. Other than talking about a global or national predicament, you can also send good news to the editor to promote the celebration of your success. It all depends on you. However, there are a few formalities you do need to follow to ensure your letter gets selected.
Read along to learn how you can prevent your letter from being rejected.
Why should you write a letter to the editor?
The letter to the editors is amongst one of the most widely read features in a newspaper or magazine. This is because people feel more connected to pieces that reflect the concerns of the public. Hence, if you have a good thought that you want to put out there or if you feel there is a matter that needs to be addressed, don’t shy away and take your shot at getting your letter published.
There are many reasons why you would want to write a letter to the reader. Few of them have been listed below to help you understand the purpose of this type of letter writing.
- An issue within your community which you believe must be addressed
- You want others to know about a recurrent issue
- There is a matter important enough that you want a larger audience to know about it
- To provoke the citizens to take action against something
- To bring an issue to the government’s attention
- To suggest an idea
- Influence public opinion
- Educate the public on a specific matter
- Influence policy makers of elected officials
- Publicize your work
- Publicize the work of your company to attract volunteers or investors
- Send out a good news
The list of reasons does not end there, there are plenty of more reasons why you can send a letter to the editor. As long as your letter is relevant, does not hurt the sentiments of anyone, is for a good cause, it shall be selected by the editor for publication.
Tips for writing a letter to the editor
The following few tips are aimed to guide you on how to write an exemplary letter to the editor. There is nothing tricky or difficult about getting your letter published. However, there are a few factors all writers must stick to in order for their letter to be shortlisted.
1. Personalize your letter
It is an established fact that editors choose letters that are authentic and personalized. They want new ideas, not rip offs. Yes, you can use facts and figures published elsewhere, but that’s about it. Don’t worry about opening up, remember the aim of this letter is to open up. Secondly, do not worry about being judged for what you have to say. Your opinion matters and it is always a good idea to voice it.
Be unique, what you’re talking about isn’t necessarily supposed to be unique, but the way you write about it should. There may be many people who wish to address the same issue as yours so what will make your letter stand out is the way you present it. It should be clear, to the point and it should reflect your understanding on the issue. Don’t copy paste an issue you might have read somewhere else. Who other than the editor knows if your letter is authentic or not.
Another way to personalize your letter is to give solutions to issues rather than just pointing them out. It persuades the editor that you care about the issue. Thus, always brainstorm a few possible practical solutions that you can add in your letter.
2. If responding to an already published piece, make that clear
When responding to an already published piece, always start by clarifying it in the first sentence of your letter. There is nothing worse than an ambiguous letter that fails to highlight the topic under discussion since the very start. This helps you build your counterpoint narrative and also shows that you are open to other opinions on the topic-an important component of persuasive writing.
Your letter should contain objective and constructive interpretations relating to the previously published article. In addition, when criticizing, a professional and elegant approach must be taken.In other words, a question or humble comment is more effective than a pedantic, and a scornful one.
Therefore, when criticizing, always use words carefully and maintain a constructive tone throughout.
3. Stick to the facts and be authoritative
You will be able to state your case as convincingly as possible if you make use of facts and quote experts on the topic. However, don’t let the facts take up all your space. Stick to a few basic ones to make your letter sound important and credible at the same time.
When you mention facts, your letter itself becomes authoritative. However, here are a few tips that can take your letter to the next level:
- Show confidence
- Be direct
- Use jargon
- Choose strong and specific words
Similarly, here are a few mistakes that you should avoid:
- Use of contractions and qualifiers
- Poor organization
- Inconsistent thoughts and paragraphing
- High reading level
- Pop culture references
4. End with a call to action
A nice way to wrap up your letter is to call people to action. This way the editor knows that you are serious about what you have to say. You can also suggest how and what kind of action can be taken to resolve the issue. You can make this a bold final statement. It is the perfect way to complete your letter to the editor.
Here are a few other tips that you should keep in mind when writing a letter to the editor:
- Keep the letter short and stick to one subject
- Make sure your writing is legible and if not, send an electronic letter
- Send letters to weekly community newspapers too
- Make references to the newspaper
- Always include your contact information since the editor may call you for verification
- Be patient, it may take a week or longer for your letter to be published
How should you send your letter to the editor?
The first step to knowing how to send a letter is to read the editorial guidelines. Check for any specifications or requirements that you need to meet when submitting a letter. The guidelines should specify whether you need to send the letter through conventional mail or electronic mail. In recent years, most newspapers and magazines have chosen to stick with electronic mail as they are much easier to handle.
Sometimes letters are published in periodicals such as technical and entertainment magazines and radio and TV stations. In fact, these letters are also read out on air. In that case, the letter is known as viewer mail or listener mail depending on the medium used to broadcast it.
In academic publishing, you can send a letter to the editor of an academic journal. These letters are critical of some aspect of the original paper. Controversial papers in mainstream journals usually attract many letters to the editor. The requirements of how these letters need to be structured also differs from journal to journal. Therefore, to check out those requirements before sending in your letter.
How to write a letter to the editor?
This part of the article will further guide you on how to write a successful letter to the editor. Follow the simple guide below and perfect your letter writing skills.
Start with a simple salutation
You don’t have to worry about knowing the name of the editor. Many people spend a lot of time trying to find out who they 7oshould be addressing. Secondly, don’t start with a gender specific greeting such as “ Dear sir” or “ Dear Ma’am”. Since you don’t know who the editor may be, it is best to remain gender neutral as it may be offensive. Hence, this is one of the first mistakes you should avoid.
A simple “To the Editor of” or “To the Editor” should be sufficient. Even if you do know the name of the editor, refrain from using it as it may seem like you are asking for a favor or are getting preferential treatment from the editor. You need to avoid doing this at all costs.
A good opening sentence
The opening sentence of your letter is very important.When writing a letter to the editor, first impressions matter. Especially because your letter is short and there aren’t a lot of words you can use to make up for any shortcomings in the start.
Make sure your opening statement is catchy and grabs the attention of the readers. It should make them want to read more.
Explain what the letter is about
It is best to be clear about the topic from the start. Don’t delve into unnecessary details, start with introducing the topic, tell the readers why it matters and how it is affecting them. People tend to gravitate towards topics that relate to them in some way. Hence, always try to create a connection with the general public.
Stay away from jokes and anecdotes in these letters as you may end up diverting the attention of the reader from the issue which defeats the purpose of writing that letter in the first place. Don’t at any point make your reader guess what you are trying to say. It is essential to explain the purpose and significance of your letter to the audience.
Proofread your letter
It is always recommended that you proofread your letter before sending it to the editor. Even if your issue is important, spelling and grammatical mistakes can put off the editor and he or she may not choose to publish it. In addition, also check the sentence structure of your letter. Use a combination of simple and complex sentences.
If you have some trouble finding out your mistakes, you can always make use of online softwares that helps proofread your work. You can also ask your friend or someone from the family to have a look at your letter before you send it.
Tell the reader what should be done
As mentioned previously, it is essential that you give workable solutions for the issue you have highlighted. It doesn’t have to be something technical, simple recommendations are appreciated unless your technical solutions are backed by evidence. You can suggest models that have been used elsewhere and prove that they will work for your community as well.
Evidence based solutions are the way to go. This is because you can’t effectively suggest new solutions within a 300 word limit. In addition, such solutions are more likely to be taken into consideration by policy makers and government officials.
Stick to the limit
Letters that are short and within the suggested word limit are chosen for publication. It may be hard to stick to the word limit but that is what helps differentiate a good writer from a bad writer. Remember that you cannot fit everything you want to say in this one letter,hence, decide what needs to be written and what needs to be left out.
First, brainstorm a little, make a few drafts and then start writing the actual letter. This shall help you stick to information that matters. Your first draft should get you started but it should never be the final letter that you send out for publication.
There is nothing that makes a writer better at his job than practice. Hence, keep practicing, you will get the hang of it eventually.
Sign your letter
You may think that this part is not that important, but your letter will be instantly rejected if it has not been signed. Always include your full name, your address, phone number and email address in the letter. All of this information should be up to date and correct.
Some publishers call you to confirm if the letter has not been published elsewhere and to verify your identity. This is also a confirmation for you that your letter has been selected for publication. Thus, don’t miss this call.
Don’t be disheartened
In case your letter does not get selected for publication, do not stop writing or voicing your opinions. In fact, this should serve as a motivation to do even better in the future. In case of local community newspapers, you can always message the editor and ask them for feedback. This way, you will know which mistakes to avoid when writing a letter. Therefore, don’t shy away when asking for feedback.
Secondly, always take this criticism constructively and not personally. Learn from it and avoid similar mistakes in your next letter.
What are the chances of your letter getting published?
This usually depends on the kind of newspaper and magazine you are sending your letter to. In newspapers like “The New York Times”, the competition is high. These newspapers receive numerous letters and getting your selected can be a little tough. However, if you wish to publish your letter in a local small-town newspaper, your letter will most likely be published.
Nonetheless, the quality of your work is also a big contributing factor. A well-thought out, well-structured and clear letter has more chances of getting published no matter how renowned the paper or magazine is. Thus, focus on the quality of the work.
Magazines and newspapers will publish letters that articulate and that either present specific points on an issue or that thoughtfully analyze complex issues and events
It is suggested that you go through some of the previously published letters on the website of the paper you wish to publish your letter in. This will give you an idea about the kind of letter you need to write.
In conclusion, letter writing is an art that takes some time to perfect. Before writing your own letter, go through a few successfully published letters so that you have an idea about what needs to be done. Follow the tips and techniques listed above to make sure that your letter gets published. And in case it does not, always try again. Your opinion matters and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.