Six Tips for Writing a Letter to the Editor

October 16, 20120 Comments

If you would like to promote awareness of the plight of elephants, or to advertise an elephant advocacy event, a letter to the editor of a local print or online newpaper is a great way to start. Not only can it effectively stimulate the public’s awareness of elephants, hopefully it will also whet your appetite to do more.

Here are six tips for writing a great letter to an editor that will get published.

1) Select a Publication
Select a publication that also publishes online. That way your letter will live long after the print paper has been recycled. The more local the paper is, the more likely your letter will be accepted, because they like to hear from local people. Check out Patch.com, which has hyper-local online publications in thousands of cities.

If you are targeting a print publication and you could choose between a daily or a weekly, send it to the daily first. If there is a weekly in your community, send a letter to that one as well. Try to change the letter’s content a little so that it doesn’t read exactly like the one you sent to the daily paper. Some editors don’t like to publish identical letters sent to their competitors.

2) Choose Your Topic
One of the best ways to get your letter read and published is to send it shortly after an article about elephants is published in a national magazine or on TV. You can easily tie it in by sending your comment to the local newspaper editor. Look for a current news item involving an elephant and use it to write about elephants.

3) Grab the Editor’s Attention
The best way to insure your letter will get published (not be tossed into the circular file), is to grab the editor’s attention in your first sentence or first paragraph. But how can you do that?

One of the best methods is to start your letter with an astonishing fact or quote. For instance, start your letter with a fact about the number of elephants who are killed each year by poachers for their tusks. Another way is to begin with a quote from an elephant advocate like Juliette West or a celebrity like Yao Ming. You can also get an editor’s attention is state a common myth about elephants and spend a paragraph explaining why it is a myth.

The result of these facts, quotes or shattered myths is that it may not only get you letter published, it may give you top billing. In other words, the editor may choose to give your letter the best place on the op-ed page. Another result is that he may assign a reporter to do some research and write a feature article about elephants. One last upshot is that when you contact the newspaper for assistance for an event, the editor may remember your letter.

4) Focus; Don’t Ramble On
Some newspapers don’t commit a lot of space to their readers’ letters so don’t ramble. Get right to the point. Sometimes an editor will actually edit letters, not just for spelling and grammar, but also for length. Long, wordy letters are often avoided, but short, to-the-point letters are always welcome.

5) Keep the Tone Professional
Don’t appear to be overly emotional in your writing. While you may be upset by the treatment of elephants, you will get your point across more forcefully by making your position clearly and concisely. Don’t insult others (people or organizations) with bad language and don’t end every sentence with an exclamation point.

6) Provide Your Contact Information
Always include your name, address, email address and phone number on your letter. Editors need this information to verify your identity because most newspapers won’t publish anonymous letters. Send your letter by email if they will accept letters by email. It’s faster than waiting for your letter to arrive via snail mail, and most editors prefer it because they can edit, cut and paste your letter on the computer.

With these tips in hand, may you go out and change the world with your words. Remember, “The pen is mightier than the sword!”

If you do get a letter to the editor published, please come back to this blog and put a link to your letter in the comments. We all want to celebrate your success (and get ideas for our own letters to the editor).

Filed in: Advocacy TrainingAllCurriculumMedia & PR

About the Author ()

S.R. Morris, an American living in and reporting from the Philippines, where the ivory trade is recently a big topic in the news.

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