How to Write a Letter to the Editor

Submitting a letter to the editor is an effective way for you to comment on a specific issue being covered in the press, and to present yourself as an expert on that issue. A letter to the editor responds to a news article, editorial, or op-ed that has already appeared in the newspaper. It should provide new information, a correction, or a different perspective than the original article. Here are some basic tips on how to begin writing your letter to the editor.

  1. Take a Position
    Take a stand either in favor of or in opposition to a position expressed by the editorial or article that prompted it, or offer a new perspective or information that was not included in the article. Use your research or your organization’s talking points to back up your position.
  2. Be Specific
    Focus on a specific issue that was raised in an article or opinion piece. You risk diluting the letter’s overall impact if you address more than one issue.
  3. Be Brief
    Try to keep your letter to one or two paragraphs in length. If you find that you have a lot more to say, consider submitting an op-ed article to the paper. (For more information, please see the tip sheet “How to Write and Place an Op-Ed.”) If your op-ed isn’t published, consider shortening it into a letter to the editor.
  4. Cite the Original Article
    In your first or second sentence, mention the title and date of the article your letter is responding to: e.g., “Dear Editor: Your recent coverage of the issue of the uninsured (“Health care in America,” May 13, 2014) was a thoughtful piece...”
  5. An Opportunity to Say Thank You
    If the coverage is particularly good, you could open your letter by thanking or congratulating the reporter or newspaper for their work.
  6. Edit Your Work
    Write and edit your letter carefully. If your letter isn’t published, consider submitting it to the comment thread at the end of the original piece in the online edition. In some cases, comment threads attract more readers than the letters column