“how to write a great letter to the editor” from one.org

February 4, 2014

This is the first in a series of monthly blog posts about being a great activist from ONE.

By Emily Walker, ONE marketing manager  

Have you ever seen, heard or read something that you wanted to share with your community? Is there a cause about which you are particularly passionate? Is there an injustice that you feel needs to be righted?

Well it might be easier than you think to do just that.

Everyone who works in the advocacy world knows just how important the coveted letter to the editor (LTE) can be. At ONE, an advocacy organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease particularly in Africa, we ask for your voice, not your money. Because of this, a published LTE in your local paper is one of our most effective tools. 
While our LTEs tend to focus on raising awareness of global poverty and disease, LTEs are a great way to raise awareness about any issue within your community and with reporters. Whether you’re passionate about the environment, finding a cure for cancer, eradicating homelessness or gender equality, LTEs are the perfect way to speak up and share your opinion. These letters can get the attention of your elected officials who have the power to prioritize and fund the issues that matter most to you.
So what are you waiting for? Nothing? Good. Because…

Welcome to LTE 101!
First and foremost, let’s start with the basics. These are great tips no matter what you are writing about, so keep them handy.

1. Focus on making it local – Write something your neighbors will identify with
2. Make it relevant – Tie your letter to current events or recent articles that relate to the issue
3. Keep it concise – 250 words or less!
4. Add personality – Share personal stories and anecdotes
5. Email it – Check the newspaper’s opinion page to find the email address
6. Identify yourself – Include your name, address, email and phone number in case the editor needs to contact you (this information won’t be published)
7. Identify your note as a LTE – Address your letter “To the Editor”
8. Don’t get discouraged if your letter isn’t published – Only a small portion of the LTEs that you write will appear in the paper, but every LTE can have an influence on the columns and opinions that the editorial board writes and on the other LTEs they choose to print.

Phew! That’s a lot of tips. As with all things, practice makes perfect – keep writing LTEs and before you know it one will go to print.
Now let’s check out some sample LTEs that should give you a better idea of the format and content of a letter. While these samples are tied to ONE’s issues of extreme poverty and preventable disease, the general structure and messaging can be applied to many other issues. Click on the samples to expand the LTEs.

Example: 1

Example: 2

Example: 3

Example: 4

You are now armed with all of the tools and information you need to write your first (or second, or third…) letter to the editor! While putting pen to paper and drafting a letter can seem intimidating at first, it is really nothing to be scared of. You can make a big impact with one small, 250 word letter – so get writing!

Got any tips? Add them in a comment below!