Writing a letter to the editor
Letters to the editor are very widely read in most newspapers, and they’re much easier to get published than op-eds. They’re also easier to write, as they’re much shorter (about a quarter of the length), so they’re a great way to get some practice in opinion-writing, or to make an impact without huge effort.
Here are some general tips to help you:
- Get the length right. Some papers keep letters to 150 words; others will take up to 200 words. Check the publication’s guidelines. By sticking to the required length, you can avoid having your argument cut in half by an editor.
- If you’re responding to a specific story or op-ed in the paper, or a recent event (all of which increase your chances of publication), be timely. In 3 or 4 days, it’ll be old news. 24 hours is ideal.
- Start your letter by explicitly referring to the item you’re responding to, or to the relevant event or issue in the news.
- Then get right to the point. Stay laser-focused on that point; you have very little space, so you can’t afford to stray.
- Be conscious of the language you use and how it inherently frames the debate – even if you’re responding to something negative, try not to reinforce the opposition’s message by repeating it. Use our side’s framing.
- Stay away from personal attacks. Insults may entertain, but good arguments persuade.
- Recruit your friends and colleagues to send in letters as well. The more letters submitted on a topic, the better the chance of one of you getting published.
After you get published:
- Spread the word! Share the link on social media and send the piece to your legislators as well.
- Share your success with MIRA by emailing Marion Davis.