Letters to the editor (LTEs) are an opportunity for all citizens to participate in public debate by expressing their opinions in a newspaper or magazine. Usually found in the Opinion Section, LTEs are one of the most read parts of the newspaper. Senators, Representatives, and other politicians also collect and read them in order to read he opinion of citizens on controversial issues. They are a great way to make your voice heard! Submitting a letter on a topic you are advocating for can help to gather support and spark a debate around an important cause.
Generally, most Letters to the Editor follow a specific layout. Your local newspaper or magazine most likely has submission guidelines you may follow to help you write your letter. Check their website and make sure you follow these guidelines in order to have the best chance of having your piece published.
Crafting Your Letter
1) Find the name and address of the editor and newspaper. This can usually be found in the submission guidelines of your local news outlet or on the editorial page. Many newspapers now ask you email the letters instead of sending them by post.
2) Start off your letter by clearly stating why you are writing it. State the problem or issue that concerns you in a way that is easy for the public to understand.
3) Tell the editor why this issue is important. How does it directly impact you or others? What will happen if something is not done about it? If you have had an experience related to the issue you are writing about, include it. This creates letters that connect with the public on a more personal level.
4) Write about your opinion. What do you think should be done? Who needs to do it? Be specific.
5) Include a call to action. What can others do to learn more or to support what you are writing about?
6) Edit your letter for spelling, grammar, word count, and structure. If you have included any specific facts or statistics, double-check them. Have a friend read over your letter once you have finished to ensure that you have presented your letter in a clear and concise way.
7) Make sure to include your personal information so that the news source can reach you if they need to. This information won’t be published.
8) Don’t give up! Not every letter you submit will be published. Don’t be discouraged, your opinion still matters.
Here is a letter I wrote a couple years back that follows the guidelines of my local paper.
July 8, 2010
As part of the Kids Safe Product Act passed in 2008, Maine is required to choose two toxins harmful to the health of children each year to be phased out. On August 19th, the Department of Environmental Protection will have a hearing to decide if Bisphenol-A (BPA) will be one of those chemicals. I urge the department to ban this dangerous chemical in order to protect the health of Maine citizens and their children.
The toxin BPA is often used in plastics in order to harden them. If can be found in baby bottles, canned foods, and even water bottles. A study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2004 found that 92.6% of participants had BPA in their systems. This chemical has been linked to cancer, obesity, and developmental problems in children. The only way to protect ourselves, our children, and our state is to ban this toxin.
I strongly urge the Department of Environmental Protection to ban Bisphenol-A from baby bottles. In order to protect our most vulnerable loved ones we must act to rid our state of harmful chemicals.