Metro Detroit Greens (Wayne, Oakland & Macomb Counties)
This page is adapted from a presentation given by Christy
Hawkins, a communications specialist with Teamsters for a
Democratic Union. Since the point of writing a letter to the
editor is to get it published, these tips are intended to guide you
to produce a letter that has a decent chance of being reprinted.
Tips for Writing Letters to the Editor
- Watch for opportunities to get out your point of view. The first step
is reading the newspapers or magazines. Follow the articles about your issues.
Check out the opinion column to get a feel for what kind of letters to the
editor are published.
- Make sure your letter is relevant. You should reference a specific
story or issue that has been in the news. List the date published and
headline in your letter, if possible.
- Respond quickly. You have a better chance of getting your letter
published if you send it in within a few days of the original story you
are responding to.
- Be brief. The editor might edit your letter for length or clarity,
but if it has to be chopped too much, it won't get printed. For most
publications, 300 words is the maximum length; 100 words is even better.
- Stick to one main point. Even though you may have a lot to say about
the issue, or you want to bring up several points about the article, try
to make only one main point in your letter, so your message is clear.
- Make your letter stand out. Use humor, a personal story, or some
other original twist to make your letter stand out from the others received.
- Don't personally attack the reporter. Most newspapers will print
letters that strongly disagree with articles in the newspaper - or the
opinions expressed in op-ed columns or quotes. But they won't print
letters that include personal attacks. Besides landing your letter
in the reject pile, you might alienate a reporter who can help you get
a story into print at a later date.
- Be neat. Your letter doesn't have to be typed on a typewriter or
printed off a computer. But it should be neat and readable. If it is
typed or printed, double-spaced lines are best.
- Don't forget to include identifying information. Most publications will
want to print your name and where you're from if they print your letter.
Many won't print a letter unless they are able to confirm with a telephone
call that you actually wrote it. Remember to include your name, address,
and a day-time phone number when you write.
- Expect to be edited. Editors chop off sentences or whole paragraphs
frequently, sometimes leaving only one or two sentences of the original
letter. You should protest only if the editing actually distorts your
point of view.
- Don't blame yourself if the letter is not printed. Newspapers and magazines have
their own agenda. Their reasons for printing or not printing a particular
letter on a particular day may be technical, or political, or entirely
arbitrary. Depending on the publication, perhaps only a small percentage
of the letters sent in will be printed. Try again at a later date anyway.
BASIC FORMAT OF A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
- 1st Paragraph:
- Make reference to the original story (headline, date).
Briefly introduce your point of view.
- 2nd Paragraph:
- Make your case. (Use more than one paragraph if necessary.)
- 3d Paragraph:
- Sum up your argument with a neat conclusion.
- Signature block:
- Name, address, and a day-time phone number.
If you have written a letter to the editor on the subject of a Green Party issue and it has been published, send a copy here, along with the information about publication. We'll put it on the web. It probably won't make you famous, but it couldn't hurt.