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How to Format a Letter to an Editor


Writing a letter to a publication's editorial page can be a very effective way to get your voice heard by the public, whether you are sharing your opinion on a controversy or saying thank you to someone. Publications vary in their guidelines for letters to the editor, so be sure to locate and read these. They may be located in the masthead or on the editorial or opinion page of a print publication, and are usually on the "Contact Us" page of an online one. Follow these instructions precisely.

Formatting Your Letter

If you're sending a letter on paper, format it like a business letter, with your address (minus your name, which is at the end beneath your signature) in the upper left-hand corner, the date beneath that, and an inside address. Most publications give the desired addressee for letters on their editorial page; it may be a specific person, "letters," "opinion" or "'editorial." Use this and the publication's mailing address. Skip a line and type "To the Editor," and begin your letter, indented one inch, on the line after that.

E-mails require less formality; if the publication doesn't specify what to put in the subject line, use "Letter to the editor" and use "To the Editor" as your salutation. Pay close attention to the publication's word count requirements; if you exceed them, the paper may not print your entire letter. End the letter with your full name and contact information, including a phone number and e-mail address. Your contact information won't be printed, but it may be used by the editor to verify your identity as the writer.

Tips and Cautions

Make your first paragraph clear and engaging. Include the basic facts of who-what-where-when-why and the point you intend to make right up front. And no matter how strongly you feel about a topic, an objective, moderate tone wins more supporters than a shrill shriek. Tell the reader the facts that have convinced you of your position, and then restate exactly what that position is and what action you would like to see taken in your last paragraph. Carefully avoid personal attacks that could fall under the definition of libel.

About the Author

Anne Pyburn Craig has written for a range of regional and local publications ranging from in-depth local investigative journalism to parenting, business, real estate and green building publications. She frequently writes tourism and lifestyle articles for chamber of commerce publications and is a respected book reviewer.

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