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Tips for Writing a Letter to the Editor

A Letter to the Editor is an easy way to make a BIG impact. Editors do not publish every letter, but they do pay attention—especially to letters that are well-written and connected to an article they just published. Here are a few helpful tips:

Writing Your Letter to the Editor

  • Make it relevant. Relate your letter to an issue recently discussed in the publication to which you are writing. Many outlets are picking up on the defense cuts included in sequestration so this may be a time to bring the non-defense cuts to light.
  • Be concise. The first sentence should summarize your position. One of the biggest mistakes made in writing Letters to the Editor is using the first paragraph (or the entire letter) to build to the point. Most editors read 2-3 sentences before making a decision to go on.
  • Mind your word count. Check the guidelines for the paper you are targeting. If they give a word count, follow it. If they don’t, 200 words are generally considered the maximum length. Many papers will not consider letters that exceed the word count.

Submitting Your Letter to the Editor

Many newspapers have specific format requirements, so please check the paper’s website before submitting. Always include full contact information for the author(s).

  • Follow the guidelines. Follow the outlet’s rules regarding Letters to the Editor and make sure to adhere to the guidelines on length. Spell everything correctly and pay close attention to grammar—letters are not usually edited, rather the outlets select well-written letters that meet their guidelines. Email your letter to ensure timeliness. To do this, paste the text into the body of an email—DO NOT SEND AS AN ATTACHMENT. You may also fax it, but sending it electronically is generally the preferred way.
  • Follow up. Once you have submitted your letter, follow up with a call 24 hours later to find out if it will be printed.

Sample Letter to Editor

We’ve drafted the following template to help guide you. Please feel free to use this version, or draft your own from scratch!

LETTER TO EDITOR TEMPLATE
[Your name]
[Editor’s name]
[Editor's address]


[Date]


Dear Editor,

This month, core government functions such as medical research will face deep cuts under an arcane budget tool known as “sequestration.” If lawmakers can’t put politics aside to avoid it, these cuts will have wide-ranging effects on our nation’s security, global competitiveness, and economic growth as millions of American jobs are lost. In particular, cuts of this size would reduce new medical research grants by 25% at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). [INSERT AN EXAMPLE FROM YOUR DEPARTMENT OR INSTITUTION].

These basic services are not the cause of our nation’s debt and they have already done more than their part to reduce the deficit. I urge [INSERT THE NAMES OF YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS AND SENATORS HERE] to work with their colleagues in Congress to find a balanced approach to balance the budget. Only through balance can we avoid these devastating cuts and put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path.

Yours sincerely


[Your name]

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