Social media may be the predominant way the general public comments on news articles these days, but the Letter to the Editor is still a valuable tool to use. 

Letters to the Editor reach a wide public audience, many of whom may not be aware of an issue or have a strongly formed opinion on it. In either case you have a still malleable audience to reach —  unlike the comments section of any website or social media platform, where opinions are often already hardened. Both local and national politicians pay attention to Letters to the Editor to see if they are mentioned and to gauge public sentiment on their actions or different issues. Letters to the Editor are also valuable in that they can be used to offer public praise, corrections, different perspectives, or analysis of an issue. 

It’s not easy to get a Letter to the Editor published in many places, due to the volume submitted. But it’s always worth trying. And while there is definitely an art to writing a Letter to the Editor, it’s an art that anyone can learn and practice. 

Here are some tips:


Most publications only give you 300 words to make your point, with some places only giving you 150 words. That’s not a lot of space to work with. Try to focus on one point of criticism or praise per letter — perhaps two if they are related points. You don’t have the space in a Letter to the Editor to make deeper criticism or analysis. If you must make more than a point of commentary about an article then submit more than one letter. 


The best practice is to write your letter in response to a recent article, in fact some publications require this. You can either praise what’s being said, or provide commentary on or criticism of that article. In either case make sure it’s clear what you are writing in response to, at the start of the piece.


The opening of any piece of writing is important, but for a Letter to the Editor it is even more so. You need to grab the reader’s attention right away. Remember that even though you are motivated enough to write, and the importance of doing so seems clear to you, most of your readers will need to be told why they should be concerned about the issue you are addressing. 


Making a Letter to the Editor personal in tone helps your letter stand out. Why is what you are writing about important to you? Why do you have the expertise to write about it? It could be professional background, personal experience, or because the issue is affecting you personally as a community member. Bring this into the letter.

If you are motivated to write because you found out about an issue from an organization such as HAF, make sure to put any talking points you’ve gathered from that organization into your own words. Never copy and paste them verbatim. Also, don’t feel the need to include every talking point. Rather, pick one or two that you feel you can speak to personally and include those. 

Using your own voice, however, isn’t the same as angrily ranting (even if deep down you feel that way). Publications are much more likely to run pieces that when expressing a strong viewpoint are tight and well-crafted. You don’t have to be a professional-quality writer to submit a Letter to the Editor and get it published, but you need to take some time to make sure your viewpoint is expressed well.


When expressing your perspective, it’s best to make sure you have some documented statistics, citations, or other references to back up your viewpoint. Even if you are a professional and recognized expert in the topic you are writing about, make sure to show why you are saying what you are, not simply expressing your opinion or feeling on the matter. Everyone has an opinion. Make sure you can back up yours with facts. 


A strong concluding statement is the right way to go. This can be something general, like where readers can learn more about the issue from your perspective, or it can be some concrete actions that the reader can take, or it can be what you want done to resolve the issue. If you’re praising an article, the call to action can be for the paper to continue to publish such viewpoints. Whatever your conclusion is, though, make it clear and succinct.


Make a list of where you want to submit. Keep in mind you will stand a better chance to be published with smaller local or regional publications than with the big national ones. The latter get hundreds, sometimes thousands, of letters each day. To make the cut there you need to either truly stand out in quality, or have some other in with the publication or topic you’re writing about that makes your work rise to the top.

Keep in mind that you should only send in your letter to one publication at a time. Some make this exclusivity a condition of publication. If you get rejected, move on to other publications and don’t take it personally. Just make sure that you update your letter so that it reflects the correct publication and that publications article on the topic you are addressing. 

Also be aware that few publications will likely tell you ‘no’ when it comes to a Letter to the Editor. You just won’t hear back from them. It’s safe to assume that if you don’t hear back within three to five business days that the answer is no. 

Find out how each place takes submissions. Some publications provide a form that you need to use. Others provide an email address. It’s not best practice to send in anything via physical mail. Any printed submissions will without a doubt take more time to review and introduce delays into the process compared to electronic submissions. 

Make sure you’re within the word count. While technically this matters slightly less with electronic publication than printed papers or magazines in the sense of space, you really do need to follow the word count for each paper. Be both ruthless and creative with your words to get the piece to the correct length. 

Make sure to include your contact information. Your name will definitely be published, and likely where you live. If for some reason you must use a pseudonym for a legitimate reason of personal safety, most publications will understand, but be very clear in stating this. Your email and phone number will not be published, but may be used to verify your identity and check facts in the piece. Also, sometimes a publication will offer small edits to your piece and they will want and need to get your approval before publishing.