Tips on writing letters to the editor

The best way to break into the opinion pages

In many cases, letters are your best shot at getting published, if only because newspapers print more letters than op-eds each day. And letters to the editor are widely read and well worth submitting.

Letters to the editor pages differ from newspaper to newspaper in significant ways. You'll need to take a look at your own newspaper to get a feel for what they do and don't publish.  View a sample letter to the editor and write your own using these tips:

  • Letters should be no more than three or four short paragraphs. Check for the word count of published letters, and see if they are always in direct response to something already published.
  • Look for the right opportunity. Once you've determined your newspaper's general approach, look for the right opportunity. If your paper seems only to publish letters that respond to things they've published, read every story you see that relates in the slightest way to afterschool issues with that in mind.
  • Remember to use letters to advance your own messages, not simply to criticize somebody else for getting it wrong. It's alright to begin your letter by saying the article to which you are responding missed some important points, but do not spend your letter contradicting or denying what somebody else has said. You're just giving their arguments more play if you do. Make your case, not theirs.
  • Refer in the first sentence to the article to which you are responding and then move on to your point. The classic first sentence for a letter-to-the-editor is some variation of "Your recent article on afterschool programs totally missed the point." From there, move on to your messages.
  • Consider who from among your allies should sign the letter: a program director, parent, community leader, etc.
  • So start your letter with a quick response to the article and then move on to make your points.  Remember that whatever you're responding to is merely the occasion for your letter; it shouldn't limit what you have to say.
  • Sign the letter to the editor and include a phone number.  If the letter is chosen for publication, the newspaper staff can call to confirm that the letter is indeed from you. The newspaper will not print your phone number.
  • Then send a letter, addressed to "Letters to the Editor," to the newspaper. Some papers take letters by fax, email or on their website; others do not. Check your newspaper's policy.

Sample letter to the editor


Wednesday, July 23, 20--

Letters to the Editor
Rivertowne Enquirer
312 Elm Street
Rivertowne, OH 45202

To the Editor:

Just in time for the new school year, Stevens Middle School has answered the pleas of local families by providing an affordable, quality afterschool program for students in grades six to eight. The demand for supervised afterschool programs is great—millions of school-age children have either their only parent or both parents working outside the home, and 11.3 million "latchkey children" go home after school each day to a house with no adult supervision, and without the opportunities to learn that afterschool programs can provide.

The juvenile crime rate triples between the hours of 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., with violent crimes by juveniles peaking between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.—the hour at the end of the school day. Why? In part because an increasing number of our children are unsupervised during these late afternoon hours, while parents are at work. What these children need is supervision that will keep them safe and out of trouble.

Afterschool programs provide that needed alternative, while helping children with their studies and providing a range of enrichment activities. Just For Kids provides three hours of supervised afterschool activities, including homework assistance, arts and crafts, and recreation. Rivertowne Student Success is proud to take a leadership role in the burgeoning afterschool movement, and excited about the chance to provide our children with a positive afternoon alternative to the streets.



Jennifer Greene

Director, Rivertowne Student Success

(513) 555-4567