Writing a Letter to the Editor

 December 13, 2007

One of the most widely read sections of the newspaper is the Letters to the Editor. A letter to the editor allows you to express your opinion on a hot topic, add an additional point of view regarding a recent article, or clarify an inaccurate or misleading story. But because letters are so popular, there is also a lot of competition to get your letter published.

Here are some tips to help you write a good letter that will attract an editor’s attention:

·         Find out your targeted publication’s guidelines. This is often found on the opinion or letters page, either in print or online.  Different newspapers and magazines have different rules regarding what they will accept, what contact information they need, and the maximum length. Find out the guidelines and follow them to avoid being immediately rejected.  If guidelines are not available the best rule of thumb is that shorter is better.  Many publications will not run letters longer than 250 words.
·         Tie your letter’s topic to current news or a recently published articled. And if referring to a specific story, cite the headline and date within your letter. (“While many people admit that they are suffering from extreme stress, (as reported in “Americans More Stressed than Ever”, November 27) we must also recognize that…). Remember to include a message of the campaign. (Stress is a serious health problem. Help is available through psychologists.)
·         Be specific and brief. Your letter should stick to one main point. If the publication wants no more than 250 words, and you made your point in 150, it’s OK to stop writing. If you want to write something that is longer than a few paragraphs, you’ll need to write a commentary piece or Op-Ed.
·         Prepare to be contacted. The publication will want to verify that you are who you say you and that you wrote the letter. So you’ll need to give your name, address, and phone number, at least. Newspapers do not publish anonymous letters.  You may wish to identify yourself as a psychologist either in the body of the letter or in your sign-off.  If the letter is being submitted on behalf of your SPTA or executive director be sure to include the author’s full credentials.
·         Remember to proofread for spelling and grammar. While editors can and will edit your letter to correct grammar or cut down the length, make sure you catch any typos before sending it out.

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