Write a letter to the editor

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Letters to the editor are a great way to get your message and ideas out to a broader public audience, which can then provoke others to write their own letters and create a swell of public opinion.   

MPs, Ministers and Government workers all take note on letters to the editor, particularly to gauge the public voice on an issue.

Below are some useful tips on how to write an effective letter to the editor:

Tip 1

Make sure you make the clear acknowledgement in your letter to a relevant article, previous letter or event upfront. (e.g. "In John Simpson's letter to The Sunday Age 11/2 he made the claim...")

Tip 2

Keep it short!  Don't waffle, usually there is a maximum of 300 words or less, particularly for newspapers.  Some publications may specify a word limit so do your research first.  It helps to re-read your letter after you have written it to see if there are some excess words that can be removed to tighten it up.

Tip 3

Introduce yourself early and any particular qualifications/ expertise you may have on the subject.  Use factual information to back your points up, try to avoid being purely emotive.

Tip 4

Be polite.  Direct your letter 'To the Editor' and sign off 'Sincerely...(your name)'.  Make sure you include your name and contact details as the paper may wish to contact you. If you wish to remain anonymous when the letter is published, be sure to make that clear at the end.  

Tip 5

Keep it legal and fair.  Don't get abusive or make accusations that may leave you open to any defamation claims.

Tip 6

Check your spelling and grammar.  You may have just made the most brilliant statement in the world about nuclear power stations, but if you've spelt it nucleur you may find your credibility undermined.

Next Steps

Once you have written your letter you can post, email or fax it as per the contact details provided by the publication.  It is recommended though that if you are going to post the letter you ensure that you give the editor enough time before publication to read it.  In the case of newspapers, by the time it reaches the editor, the issue may no longer be "today's news".

If your letter isn't published, you can always ring up or email the publication and find out why and ask for feedback.

Links

Oxfam - Make your mark in the media - Advice on how to make your letter stand out and get published.