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Elements of an Effective Letter to the Editor

 

Illustration of a letter with pen and ink - imageAn often-used tool in public affairs is a letter to the editor (LTE), and how it is written goes a long way in determining whether it will run.

So what makes a good letter?

  • Relevant content.  Can you connect your letter to recent coverage in the publication? If so, make sure to mention that your letter is in response to the piece. Be sure to include both the title of the article and the date it ran. 
  • Another effective way to use the letter to the editor is to thank policymakers for their assistance in moving your initiative forward. It doesn’t matter if the initiative has passed, failed or is still in progress, just make it clear why you are thanking them. For example, you thank an elected official for publicly supporting your issue in the first sentence. Then, you clarify why the issue is important and what needs to be done.
  • Word count matters. The fewer words the better, but don’t exceed 250-300 words. If you must have more words, then consider lengthening to a guest opinion piece.
  • Signature from a local advocate. If your issue is a statewide or a national initiation, finding a local advocate is key. This demonstrates the issue has local roots. 

In the end, be sincere and positive and the letter will resonate with many. And, it gives you a vehicle to promote in other ways such as posting to social media, websites or targeted emails to supporters and policymakers.