Do you have something to say you want the whole world to hear? Writing a letter to the editor of your local paper (or favorite online publication) is a great way to share your thoughts, influence public opinion, or spread awareness about an issue. The more people who write in about a certain topic, the more traction the topic gets.
If you’re in college, writing a letter to the editor of your campus paper would be a great way to make students and administrators take notice and maybe even take action. Here are some tips to get you started:
Review your publication’s guidelines
Some newspapers or online publications require different things in order to submit a letter. Length, authorship, style — they will tell you what you need to include. Make sure you follow these instructions. Otherwise, your letter might not be printed.
Be clear and to the point
A letter to the editor is not the place to wax poetic about your love for Proust or french cooking. You’re writing to make a point, so make one! Explain why you’re writing right away, and then be clear and concise. Explain why you think your issue is important, cite evidence as to why you think so, and keep it brief. Make sure what your writing is completely original and truthful.
Look at samples
There are lots of places online that show you how to write a letter to the editor. Here is a great website that details some more tips, and here a sample letter from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Make sure you write your own original work (don’t just copy the sample letter), but reading example letters will help you better understand the tone and style of a letter to the editor.
Create a call to action
At the end of your letter, make sure you include a few sentences on what should be done about the issue you’re dealing with. No one wants to hear somebody complain about something — they want to know what they can or should do about it. Your letter could be urging politicians to act, a local leader to step down, or it could be encouraging the general public. If you know who you’re writing about and what you want them to do, your call to action will be clear.
Proofread proofread proofread. If there’s one thing I have learned writing a blog, it’s that I cannot proofread enough. (And even then, I still miss things!) Sending in a clearly worded, grammatically correct letter will make your piece stand out and more likely to be published.
Own your letter
Most newspapers require a signature to a letter to the editor. Even if they don’t, I encourage you to always own your opinions. People want to hear thoughts and opinions from other real people, not mysterious authors. Even in online comment sections and other sometimes anonymous places, not sharing your name is cowardly. If you have a thought worth sharing, it’s also worth owning up to.