How to Write an Open Editorial Letter

Updated February 21, 2019

The "Letters to the Editor" section of the local newspaper can offer well thought-out opinions on various social or political issues as well as provide a forum for less weighty matters like unlicensed cats or rude supermarket clerks. If you have a strong opinion you would like aired, a letter to the editor is a good way to make your voice heard in your community. If you want your letter to stand out, you should craft a clear, well-reasoned case you hope will make readers think as strongly about the issue as you do.

Research the issue before you write. If your letter contains inaccurate information you could mislead others as well as make yourself appear uninformed.

Begin the letter by identifying the issue that concerns you. Keep the letter brief and concise and don't stray from the issue. If it is a local ordinance or law, identify it by number as well as by name so that the readers can verify your information. Read the newspaper's guidelines for letters to the editor.

Explain in precise, unemotional detail why this issue concerns you. Do not personally attack others because they hold a different opinion. That hurts your credibility. Instead, focus on the issues. You want to appear reasonable and intelligent because that adds to your credibility about the issue.

Offer a solution to the issue you present in your letter. Never just write to complain. Be part of the solution rather than just another voice on a soapbox offering an opinion. Include specifics on why your solution would work.

Thank the editor and readers for their attention. Politeness goes a long way toward earning respect, and people listen to those they respect.

Sign your full name. Most newspapers do not publish letters to the editor without a verifiable name and address. Even if they do, you should stand by your opinion. An anonymous letter or an obvious pen name hurts your credibility. If the issue is important to you, you should not be afraid to use your real name.

Proofread your letter carefully. Some newspapers print letters unedited, and errors will hurt your credibility as an intelligent, reasonable citizen.

Mail your letter or submit it online to the newspaper on their website.

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About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.