To influence local, state, regional, and even national politics a “Letter to the Editor” is one of the oldest tools in your toolbox. Here is a recipe to guide you in writing one of your own.
- 250 words (or less)
- 1 opening statement
- 1 personal story (optional) or
- 1 sprinkle of statistics (optional)
- 1 directive for action
- 1 signature
- 1 contact information
- “Be quick, be concise.” Almost all newspapers have a maximum word requirement for their Letter to the Editor (LTE). These limits are usually 250 words is typical for local and regional papers, but many larger newspapers are limited to 150 or so and some magazines limit letters to less than 100 words. Always check the editorial page of the newspaper to which you are sending your letter. That usually will tell you such things as word limit and other information to include with your letter. Increasingly, more newspapers prefer that you send your LTE by email.
- Begin your letter to the editor with a statement about why the issue is important. Refer to a recent event in your community or to a recent article – make a connection and make it relevant.
- Personalize. Good LTEs are concisely written, compelling, and written in the first person. The more that an LTE is personalized and provides a simple but powerful message, the better.
- Verify your information. We don’t want to spread fake news.
- Finish with your opinion about what should be done.
- Don’t forget to add your signature and additional information requested by the newspaper.
- If you have time, allow your letter to the editor to rest overnight.
- Go back for a final edit before you submit it via email or snail mail to the newspaper.
- Enjoy the rewards of your advocacy when you see your name in print!
Example of an LTE:
Written to the Portland Press Herald, March 21, 2018
I write in response to the Maine Voices on March 21: As efforts to limit abortion rights grow, clinics need support of community. As a woman who grew up in the 1950s, I remember the days when women were dying because abortion was illegal, and access to contraception very limited. Public hospitals had a third ward in OB/GYN to take care of women who had had unsafe, illegal abortions and were very ill. Many died. It was clear that women seek abortion, even when their lives are at risk. They have for centuries; they will continue even with the risk of death or legal punishment. The stories are painful to hear; many of the women who died left children behind. All too often the women who did not die suffered life-long injuries from having an unqualified person do the illegal abortion.
Communities at all levels must support this option for women. As the part of the community that remembers the times before Roe v. Wade in 1973, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights GRR! salutes those who work in the face of political attacks and relentless fear-mongering. We will continue to work through education and advocacy to secure for younger generations access to reproductive rights, justice, and healthcare for which our generation fought so hard.