Writing an Effective Letter to the Editor

How to Write an Effective Letter to the Editor

  • Write your letter immediately. Timeliness is imperative.
  • Make sure you have read the entire article before writing your letter. Include the title, date, and author in your letter, preferably in the first sentence.
  • Use the pyramid style — your most important fact and conclusion come first and your least important fact and conclusion come last.
  • Stay focused on the issue. Do not use runoff sentences or go on tangents.
  • Do not confuse a letter to the editor with an op-ed piece. Your letter should consist of 300 words or less.
  • If you cite facts, always provide references to support them. Do not exaggerate numbers; editors will often factcheck letters and any discrepancy will question your credibility.
  • Avoid personal attacks. If you attack the writer, you will only amuse. If you attack a third person, your letter could be libelous. Either way your letter may not be published.
  • Avoid directives like "Think about it!" or "Shame on you!"
  • Avoid cliches and explain acronyms. Assume that your audience knows little about the subject.
  • Always include your name — even if you wish it withheld for publication — your address, and your phone number.
  • Have a third person proofread and edit your letter prior to submission. Always follow the proper procedure for submitting letters to the editor.