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Top 7 Guidelines for Writing Letters to the Editor
By Bill Lampton, Ph.D.
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You want to break into print, because you know that publication brings recognition for you and your company, and will help attract new clients. Well, don't think you have to start by publishing a full length book. Instead, use an opportunity that many others overlook--writing letters to the editor of your local and area newspaper.
- Remember that you don't have to be a professional journalist.
After all, most letters to the editor originate among people largely untrained in journalism, truly from the heartland. Yet although the authors aren't likely to win a Pulitzer Prize, the letters carry strong appeal because (with rare exceptions) the writers speak for themselves only, not an organization.
- Stay within the word limit.
Often the newspaper mentions a word limit for submissions. When that's not the case, call the editorial department to learn the limit. Editor's won't make exceptions, so abide by the regulation.
- Editors reserve the right to edit for clarity and correctness.
Some editors change phrases, combine sentences, and omit useless passages. In this regard, resist pride of authorship. Welcome those editors who help you present a correct image.
- Always sign your letters.
Anonymous letters go into the newsroom's wastebasket, deservedly so. Editors want writers who endorse their thoughts proudly. Either sign or don't send your letter.
- Keep your language moderate.
Avoid harsh slang that borders on profanity, and refrain from sarcasm that readers could misunderstand. Never ridicule an individual or group. True, we read letters like that occasionally, but you don't know how many similar letters wound up in the editor's trash pile.
- Expect the editor to change your title.
Whatever title you suggest for your letter, which represents a guest mini column, expect the editor to publish another heading. Only rarely does the editorial page maintain your original title.
- Understand that editors aren't required to publish every letter
When hundreds of readers write about a hot issue, and many of the arguments sound about the same, editors select those which represent the range of opinions. When your letters don't make the printed page, keep this in mind. Don't get discouraged, because your next submission could succeed.
Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps organizations strengthen their communication, customer service, sales, and motivation. Among his clients: Ritz-Carlton Cancun, British Columbia Legal Management Association, Gillette, and Procter & Gamble. Visit his site to sign up for his complimentary online newsletter: http://www.championshipcommunication.com
Article Submitted On: February 24, 2009