What is a letter to the editor? Letters to the editor are the simplest and most direct way to respond to particular articles or editorials that have appeared in a publication. Editors of newspapers and magazines use the letters section as a forum in which readers can share views on timely or controversial issues, even if the publication does not comment on the topic itself. Therefore, the letters-to-the-editor section often provides a forum for brief reports or information that may not be covered by news reporters.
Where to send letters to the editor: The weekly newspaper is the easiest medium in which to get a letter printed. It is helpful to send a letter within two to three days of when the original article or editorial to which you are responding appeared -- or week in advance of when you hope your letter will appear. Letters to magazines also can be effective because they can reach a broader readership or be targeted to a particular magazine’s audience.
Tips for getting your letter published:
- Learn the name of the editor to whom your letter should be sent.
- Letters should be typed, double-spaced and fewer than 250 words (preferably about 100 words).
- Keep it simple, crisp and to the point.
- Consider including local references. If you are writing about a national issue, mention how it impacts people in your city, state or region.
- Cite the article or editorial (including the date and headline) to which you are responding.
- Your letter should be sent within two to three days of the publication of the original piece. If you are not responding to a specific published article or editorial, the topic should be timely and currently in the headlines.
- If you are responding to an editorial position taken by the publication, affirm or challenge the stated view and support your reaction with facts, anecdotes, quotes and/or humor.
- Avoid sending the same letter at the same time to multiple publications. Vary your letters by rearranging and rewording paragraphs.
- Whether you send an e-mail or conventional letter, provide complete contact information on the author.