Letters to the editor are a public way to share your opinion with your elected officials and help inform the newspaper’s readership of your opinion. Thus, they can initiate or contribute to debates on public policy.
Not all letters are published, but newspaper editors pay attention to well-written letters, especially if there are many on the same subject. Below are guidelines for writing a letter to the editor.
Follow submission guidelines
- Learn what the newspaper’s submission guidelines are and make sure to follow them.
- Be brief and keep your message simple. A general rule is 200-250 words maximum but check your newspaper’s submission guidelines to fit their standards and preferences. Limit yourself to 3 paragraphs, with 1-3 short sentences per paragraph.
- Be sure to include your name, mailing address, email address, and phone number.
- If you have had a letter published recently, wait a month or so before submitting another. In the meantime, encourage your friends to submit letters.
- You can send letters via email or postal mail. However, email is best to ensure timeliness. Do not send your letter as an attachment; instead, send your letter in the body of the email.
- Stick to one message and state it clearly in the first sentence.
- State your “ask” distinctly. Types of asks include asking your legislator to vote in a certain way or asking readers to contact their legislators.
- Use spell check and have someone else review your letter before it is submitted.
Show relevance and accuracy
- Back up your position with facts.
- Explain why the issue is important.
- Try responding to an article or another letter to the editor. Don’t attack the author. Instead, offer your opinion in a way that encourages debate on the issue. Remember to reference the original article by date and headline.
- Make it relevant to your community. When possible, use local statistics and personal stories.
- Larger newspapers receive numerous letters to the editor each week and only select a small number for publication. To help yours be selected, offer a unique point of view, or add depth to a current discussion.
Express gratitude and share your content
- If the newspaper published your letter, make sure to send a short email to the editor thanking them for printing your letter.
- Share your letter using social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Influence Editorials: Conduct an Editorial Board Meeting
Community Catalyst, a national advocacy organization, provides tips on the process of having an editorial board meeting to ensure your letter to the editor gets published.
List of PA Newspapers Publishing Letters to Editors
The National Popular Vote’s list of the Pennsylvania newspapers that publish letters to editors.
Example of a Letter to the Editor
The National Parks Conservation Association shares an example of a letter to the editor.