Guide to Writing Letters to the Editor
This information is available in PDF format upon request.
Seekins, T., & Fawcett, S.B. (n.d.). A guide to writing letters to the editor:
Expressing your opinion to the public effectively. Lawrence, KS: Research and Training Center on Independent Living, University of Kansas.
One way to express your opinion publicly is through a letter to the editor in your local newspaper. Editors may not publish every letter, but they do pay attention to these letters, especially well-written ones. In turn, elected officials are also influenced by letters that newspapers have chosen for publication.
This guide offers suggestions to prepare an effective letter to the editor that expresses your opinion on an issue. The letter will start with the editor’s name and address and the reason why you are writing the letter. Next, tell why your issue or problem is important and praise or criticize what someone else had done or said on the topic.
Tell why a particular action or comment is good or bad and then state your opinion about what should be done. Before signing the letter, make a general recommendation about what should be done, by whom, and when.
Published by the Research and Training Center on Independent Living, University of Kansas, 4089 Dole, Lawrence, Kansas, (785) 864-4095.
One way to express your opinion publicly is through a letter to the editor in your local newspaper. While every letter may not be published, editors pay attention to well- written letters. This is especially true when there are many letters written on the same topic. In turn, elected officials are also influenced by letters newspapers have chosen for publication.
This guide will help you prepare an effective letter to the editor that expresses your opinion on an issue. It includes two letters about a controversial issue and specific guidelines on how to prepare a successful letter yourself.
After you read the guide, prepare a letter yourself. Let a friend read it for clarity. Be sure to sign the letter and list your address; Newspapers will not publish anonymous letters.
Your letter can be positive, negative, or informative in tone. It can also be emotional or objective. But it should be simple and short, rarely more than 300 words. And, of course, it should reflect your true opinions.
Here is an example of a letter supporting a proposed program.
The big jump in the cost of heating a house has me concerned. I just got my utility bill in the mail, and I was shocked. Even though the weather has been mild, this bill was as high as any I have seen. I’m worried that some of my friends won’t be able to pay their bills when it gets really cold. If I’m not lucky, I may not be able to pay my bill. I want to praise our elected officials for having the courage to try to do something about this problem when other cities and the state government won’t, because they’re afraid of politics.
The life-line utility program is a good idea whose time has come. It’s getting cold now. We can’t afford to wait for every legal opinion in the state. I believe the city should act before it’s too late.
Sincerely, Tom Seekins
1400 New York
Anytown, USA 04521
Here is an example of a letter opposing the same program.
The City Commission is considering increasing everyone’s gas utility bills to create a subsidy program for the poor. I am able to pay my own way on a small, fixed income. I haven’t used my furnace yet this winter, preferring to wear three woolen sweaters. I am saving so that I can pay the proposed 38 percent increase in gas bills when it REALLY gets cold.
I called City Hall to protest and was told, ever so gently, that I was one of those who would be helped by the subsidy. Absolutely not! No self-respecting oldster would accept a dole extorted from other struggling citizens. The churches have prime responsibility in this area. Churches are close to the source and are in a position to locate those actually suffering in the cold.
I am outraged by the proposal to the City Commission. Mrs. A.B. Tony
543 South Ave.
Letter Preparation Guide
This guide is designed to help you write a letter to the editor on some issue that concerns you. Read the general activities and examples, and then complete the form. Use the blank spaces to write what you want to say in your letter,
- Open the letter. Get editor’s name and address from editorial page.
- Tell why you are writing the letter. State the problem or issue that concerns you. .
Example: “The big jump in the cost of heating a house has me concerned. I just got my monthly bill in the mail, and I was shocked. Even though the weather has been mild, this bill was as big as any I’ve seen.”
- Tell why this is important. Tell how the problem or issue affects you or others, or tell what will happen if something isn’t done.
Example: “I’m worried that some of my friends won’t be able to pay their bills when the weather gets really cold. If I’m not lucky, I may not be able to pay my bill.”
- Praise or criticize what someone has said or done about the issue. Make a positive or critical statement about a public action related to the issue.
Example: “I want to praise our elected officials for having the courage to try to do something about this problem.”
- Tell why this is good or bad. Explain your view about why the particular action or comment is good or bad.
Example: “Other cities and the state government won’t face the problem because they’re afraid of the politics.”
- State your opinion about what should be done. Explain what you think would work.
Example: “This life-line utility program is a good idea whose time has come.” You might say:
- Make a general recommendation. Say what should be done, by whom, and when.
Example: “I believe our elected officials should do something.” You might say:
- Sign the letter. Sign your full name and write your address.
- Addresstheenvelopeandmail the letter. You can find the address of your local newspaper on the editorial page or by calling your local public library.