Want to Write a Letter to the Editor?

Today CaSP hosted a workshop on writing a letter to the editor.  In case you couldn’t make it, we want to share a few tips!

Our panelists included Phil Hands from the Wisconsin State Journal, UW Writing Instructor Jeff Godsey, and Column Contributor / UW Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Dipesh Navsaria. Here are the steps to writing a good letter:

  1. Identify your audience, and what you want to respond to. Editors are particularly looking for letters that respond to content from their periodical, and are especially interested in topics that are locally relevant. Ideally, your letter provides a new perspective. Editors are aiming for a diversity of opinion. You might want to read up on past letters to the editor in your target publication, to see what has been written about it in the past.
  2. Have a strong opinion. This is why you’re writing a letter! Explain why you’ve taken that position. Make sure you’re backed up with accurate facts and information. It’s always helpful to provide links to these facts to make it easier for the editor to verify your claims.
  3. Pick one point. Your letter is limited to 150 to 200 words; keep it concise and to the point. As stated Phil Hands, “Every good letter has one really good sentence that says it all”.  Ideally the first sentence.
  4. Address the opposition. Respond to someone who might disagree with you, and explain why that viewpoint is incorrect.
  5. End on a positive note. This could include a call to action, such as identifying a public official to call or email who can affect the policy.  Also consider calling out things that people have done that are positive: “Thank you Representative for […]”.