February 27, 2014

How to Write a Letter to the Editor


Hugs to the members of the Beanery Writers Group


On February 12, 2014, the Greensburg Tribune-Review printed my first letter to the editor, Open birth records.

What inspired me to write this letter? Why would you, I, or anyone else want to write a letter to the editor?

I wrote the letter because I felt strongly about an issue I hadn’t seen in the local Pennsylvania media, yet it affects a great number of the state’s citizens—

  • adoptees (born and released for adoption in Pennsylvania
  • adoptive families
  • women who released their children for adoption

I wrote the letter to inform citizens about HB 162, which, if passed by the State Senate, will allow adult adoptees access to their original birth record. The Bill passed the House unanimously on October 23, 2013.

UPDATE: HB 162 will be heard in the Senate Committee on Aging & Youth on March 18 at 10:00 a.m. 


There are many reasons why you might want to write a letter to the editor. 40 reasons (from a survey asking this question of National Post readers) are presented in an article by Paul Russell.

I’ve excerpted three here. Visit his site to read the others.

  • The “letters to the editor” page is the perfect forum for exchanging ideas and finding out what other people are thinking about specific issues. Even if I don’t change anyone’s mind, at least it might make some people think and realize that there is more than one way to look at anything. Sometimes I think I am the only person with a specific viewpoint until I open my National Post to the Letters page and find that there are many likeminded people.
    — Renate Roy
  • Letters matter, otherwise nobody would bother writing. While factual reporting and editorial content are important, private citizens comments are no less so. Letters are metaphorically the hooting, foot stomping, hand-clapping, head shaking, tongue-wagging ministrations of a vibrant and energetic component of a successful democracy. Traditionally, newspapers in free societies have had a Letters section. Please do not mess with what has worked so well, for so long.
  • Why bother writing letters to the editor? How about: “Because I can then truthfully state on my resumé that I’ve written for the National Post.”

Two reasons to write letters to the editor, which I did not see on Paul Russell’s list, were

  •  letters to the editor gain publicity for a cause
  • letters to the editor have the possibility of influencing the newspaper to follow up with an article.


Letters to the editor should be timely—written immediately after an event occurs or an article that urges you to respond is published. They must be relevant, well-written, concise, brief, and follow the publication’s guidelines (look this up).

In your letter to the editor you should

  • Write to your audience—is it local or national?
  • Focus on one basic issue, stated in the first sentence. Where possible, present your point uniquely. Be original.
  • Reference the event or news article by date and headline
  • Follow with a background statement. Use a personal story.
  • If possible, back up your position with a fact or figure. Mention your position and experience.
  • End by suggesting what the reader can do to help.

Avoid ranting, clichés  puns, and attacks. However, let your passion show—be firm but polite

Expect the newspaper editor to contact you to verify that it was actually you who wrote the letter.


At the top of the letter use a simple salutation (to the editor of specific newspaper). List YOUR

  • name
  • snail mail address
  • email
  • daytime telephone number
  • your reason for writing
  • your special qualifications, if applicable
  • your signature


Edit—edit—edit. If you can say in one word what you said in six, do so.

Read your letter out loud to check for clarity. Have someone else read it.

Use email rather than snail mail.

Allow 10-14 days for your letter to be published.  Then send it to another publication.


Happy letter writing. Let your opinion be known. Let me know (in the comment box below)  if you are successful at writing a letter to the editor.



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Daily Post: 32 Flavors…of Writing Resolutions

How to Find Story Ideas



  1. Hi, Carolyn. I have wrote letters to Editor. But not lately. 🙂

    Comment by merry101 — February 27, 2014 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  2. […] How to Write a Letter to the Editor […]

    Pingback by Who Cares? About What I Write | Carolyn's Online Magazine — January 26, 2015 @ 12:44 am | Reply

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