WRITE A LETTER TO CONGRESS
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WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
A letter to the editor (LTE) is a short letter to a local newspaper or publication that gives your opinion on an issue, and calls on your lawmakers or fellow community members to take action.
To find the newspapers in your area, visit this site and click on your state. Select the newspaper(s) that you would like to submit a letter to and search the newspaper's website for letter-to-the-editor submission guidelines.
Letter to the Editor Strategies
- Check the newspaper’s print guidelines – Most newspapers have a web site. Check the paper’s web site or the editorial page of the print version for information about submitting a letter to the editor. Some newspapers have an online submission form which you can use.
- Keep it brief and to the point – Letters should be concise – typically newspapers have a word limit of about 250 words (about 3 paragraphs). Editors are less likely to print long letters.
- Make your letter timely – Tie the subject of your letter to a recent article, editorial or column. Use that article as a hook for communicating your message. Small-circulation newspapers usually print many of the letters they receive. It is more challenging to get a letter printed in a major metropolitan newspaper, so don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t get printed.
- Localize your letter – Explain how the entire community will be affected. Lend credibility to your letter by noting your professional experiences in the community that prompted you to write on this topic.
- Be mindful of the tone of your letter – The tone of your letter can either support or overpower the substance of the message you are trying to communicate. Therefore, choosing and controlling tone is an important element of your communication.
- Write about good news, not just bad – Thank the paper (when appropriate) for its positive and accurate coverage of a national security issue. Or thank a policymaker for being a champion for freedom and national security in the state or community.
- Include your name, title, address and daytime phone number – Editors like to confirm that the letter was actually written by the person whose name is on it. Also be sure to provide your professional title and affiliation, as it lends credibility to your letter.
- Consider other newspapers for publication – Many metropolitan areas have free weekly community newspapers that go to thousands of homes. Many cities also have newspapers for specific ethnic groups. Consider sending your letter to the editors of these other widely-read publications.
- Mail a copy of your published letter to your state legislators and members of Congress – Policymakers subscribe to local newspapers in their districts. You can continue to build your relationship with them by sending copies of your letter.
Opinion Editorial Strategies
- Focus your message on one key point – Although there may be many elements to the national security issue you want to address, you will have more success if your editorial is focused and easy to understand.
- Keep it short – Typically newspapers will accept op-eds of 500-800 words. Magazines may accept slightly larger pieces, but check the publication’s requirements before you submit your column.
- Tell the readers upfront why they should care - Give voice to the citizen patriots, the regular Moms and Dads, and everyday Americans that aren’t often heard by telling readers why they should care.
- Offer specific recommendations - “An op-ed is not a news story that simply describes a situation; it is your opinion about how to improve matters.” Make your call to action something concrete and realistic.
- Make your op-ed timely – Editors will be looking for op-ed columns that are compelling and which engage readers in the public debate about a timely issue.
- Review the opinion pages – By reading the opinion pages, you can get a sense of what is being covered and what is not being addressed. You can also get an idea of the types of op-eds that the editor publishes.
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