Write a letter to the editor
Why should you write a Letter to the Editor?
Whether responding directly to a specific article or simply sharing your own thoughts, a Letter to the Editor can be a powerful tool for sparking conversation and can help keep the topics that impassion you in the public eye. Due to their brief and direct nature, Letters to the Editor remain among the most-read sections of newspapers and magazines – online and in print.
This means that whatever you write – if it’s published – has the potential to be read by a large number of people with a variety of perspectives.
How do you write a Letter to the Editor?
Your opening sentence will be vital for the success of your letter: it should immediately inform readers what you’re writing about, and entice them to keep reading. If you are writing in direct response to a previously published article, cite its date and title in the first sentence. If not, introduce your argument clearly, and go from there. Ideally, you want a punchy opening sentence to get the reader’s attention.
Following the opening, the structure of your letter might go something like this:
- Give a persuasive explanation of why the issue is important
- Provide reputable evidence to substantiate claims
- State your opinion about what should be done/possible remedies to the issue
- Sign off with your name and contact details (your contact details won’t be published, but the publication may use this for follow up or verification)
And that’s it! You’ve written a Letter to the Editor!
To make sure it’s worthy of publishing, keep in mind these quick tips.
- Keep it short and sweet: As a rule, Letters to the Editor should be no more than 250 words (even less for some publications), so keep this bite-size length in mind as you are writing. Another thing to remember is that many readers may not have the same knowledge or passion about the topic as you; so concise sentences are always best. Include only one or two clear points – make sure your message is concise and clear.
- Be timely and relevant: Exploit windows of opportunity by using a current news event or article as a hook, and make sure you respond quickly as the issue could easily fall out of the spotlight in 24 hours. If your letter is more of an off-the-cuff, general opinion, try to somehow link it to related issues that have been in the news recently.
- Grab the reader’s attention: have a punchy opening sentence to get the reader’s attention.
- Include only one or two clear points: make sure your message is concise and clear.
- Consider localising or personalising your letter: taking the local angle on an issue can increase the impact, particularly if the letter is addressed to a local or regional publication.
- Make it personal, but don’t attack: It can be compelling to read an article about the inadequacy of Newstart or other payments if it is imbued with anecdotes and personal opinion – so don’t be afraid of sharing your passion on this issue. That being said, don’t attack the editor, the newspaper, or the authors of an article you are responding to – vicious letters are rarely published, and any impact they might have gets lost in the rage.
- Sign off with your full address and phone number: the author’s name and suburb (and position/role if appropriate) is generally included below published letters. Editors sometimes like to check that you are who you say you are; if they cannot find you in the electoral roll your letter may not be published. If necessary, you may be able to request that your name and address be kept private and is left off the published letter.
- Edit and proof: Whether you come back to your letter an hour or two later, or get a friend to read over it with fresh eyes, it’s important to proofread your letter before sending to avoid any silly mistakes.
- Follow the guidelines: Most newspapers will set out guidelines regarding what they require in Letters to the Editor submissions. Before you write and before you send your letter, check the guidelines to make sure you have followed them. This will increase the likelihood of your letter getting published.
Don’t give up!
Newspapers and magazines receive a huge amount of letters – far more than they have room for, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t see yours published straight away. Keep writing, because dedication and persistence pays off.
Some newspapers’ contact information
Some addresses for emailing/submitting letters to editors are below (addresses can usually be found on the letters page of the newspaper):
- The Australian: email@example.com
- Sydney Morning Herald: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Daily Telegraph: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/letter-to-the-editor
- The Age: email@example.com
- Herald Sun: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/letter-to-the-editor
- Canberra Times: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Courier Mail: email@example.com
- Adelaide Advertiser: firstname.lastname@example.org
- West Australian: email@example.com
- Hobart Mercury: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Saturday Paper: email@example.com
Don’t forget about regional and suburban newspapers – your local MP will almost certainly also monitor these.