Don't Forget to Write

Ulli Diemer

Writing letters to the editor is an effective and inexpensive way of getting publicity for your point of view and your organization.

Letters to the editor are published by almost all publications, from newspapers and magazines with a national circulation, like the Globe and Mail and Maclean's, to community newspapers, special-interest magazines, trade publications, and newsletters.

A letter to the editor may not have the glamour of splashier forms of media exposure, but the letters pages are among the most widely read sections of almost all periodicals.

Guidelines for writing a letter to the editor:

  • Make it brief. 100 to 150 words should be the maximum, fewer if possible.
  • Confine yourself to one subject. Make one point and make it clearly. You or your organization undoubtedly have views about many issues, but in a letter to the editor, you've can make one only point effectively.
  • To help you focus your letter, summarize the point you are trying to make in a single phrase or sentence before you begin writing the text of your letter. Use this to guide you in writing the letter.
  • You can and should bring in supporting evidence and arguments, but they should all be in support of your main point. Don't digress.
  • Your main point can be specific or broad, e.g. "The proposed landfill site will pollute Otter Creek" or "If we don't stop overfishing, the world's oceans will become deserts".
  • If possible, have someone else read or edit your letter before sending it off. It's hard to judge one's own writing objectively.
  • If you are writing on behalf of an organization, make it clear that you are speaking its behalf. However, be aware that newspapers tend to favour letters from individuals over letters from organizations.
  • Avoid personal attacks or disparaging the motives of someone you disagree with. Stick to the issue and the facts.
  • Send your letter off quickly, while the issue is fresh, preferably within 24 hours. The changes of your letter being printed diminishes the more time goes by.
  • Fax your letter, or send it by E-mail, or deliver it by hand. Sending it by mail may delay its arrival by two or three crucial days.
  • Remember to include your name, address, and phone number with the letter. Many publications have a policy of contacting the letter writer to confirm that s/he is truly the author of the letter.

Examples of Ulli Diemer's letters to the editor: Sample Letters

To contact Ulli Diemer:
Phone: 416-964-7799.

This article originally appeared in The Sources HotLink, published by Sources and available online at También disponible en español: No olvides escribir.


See also: The Write Stuff


Subject Headings: Advocacy - Letters - Letters to the Editor - Media Relations - Newspapers

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