Letters to the Editor Guide

A letter to the editor is a written way of talking to a newspaper, magazine, or other regularly printed publication and can be written when:

  • You want to let people know what issues you feel strongly about.
  • You want to influence people to take some action by speaking your mind.
  • You want to reach an audience larger than just your friends or your group membership.

Format Guide

Date: First things first, place the date in the upper left hand corner.

Salutations: Then, address the editor by simply typing “Dear Editor,”.

Paragraph 1: Start your letter by introducing your problem. Introduce yourself and state your relation to the subject (i.e. I am a middle school teacher at…). If you are using an outside source, don’t forget to cite. Always state the name of an article, if you are responding to one. Remember to be timely. To do so, date and/or use wording like, “yesterday I read” or “last week I saw.” Sum up your objection.

Paragraph 2: Next, Include a few sentences to support your view. Doing your homework and include quotes, studies, facts and examples are crucial and will always better your argument.

Paragraph 3: Lastly, end your letter with a great summary. Don’t be afraid to use a clever punch line. Be witty, if possible.

Signatory: Make sure you have your contact information clearly stated. Example:

John Smith
1 Nondescript Way
Sunshine, FL 33333
(888) 888-8888
j.smith@email.com

Helpful Tips

Follow Instructions: Most publications provide guidelines. Follow them carefully. They will include an optimum length (100-200 words) and specific contact information. Newspapers need to have proof you are who you say you are. Make that information readily available and supply a phone number, e-mail address, and even a web address if you are connected to one.

Show Your Text: Do NOT send your letter as an attachment. Put the text in the body of your e-mail, so it can be viewed without any extra steps. This will prevent a newspaper from accidently skipping your letter without ever opening it.

Always Proofread: Editors will sometimes ignore letters that have poor grammar, punctuation and spelling. Make sure your argument sounds like reason, not rant, and take the time to read and re-read what you write. As soon as you hit send there is nothing you can do about a costly mistake.

Keep it Brief: Keep in mind, if you try to cover too many topics, the editor is likely to delete half of them. ALL letters are subject to editing. MOST letters are edited for clarification and length. The longest letters you see published have been trimmed. The shorter and tighter…the better.