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How to write a letter to the editor

How to write a letter to the editor

Having a letter published in a newspaper or news website can be a powerful tool - it's your chance to express an opinion and raise the profile of your cause.

From an editor's point of view, using your letter shows they are illustrating a breadth of views and opens up debate on subjects whether in print or online. Most national and regional newspapers have letters sections, so if there is an issue you want to comment on send them a letter.

Remember:

- National newspapers get hundreds of letters from people every day so be succinct - It's more likely to be used if it doesn't need much editing

- Regional papers get fewer letters, although you still need to be concise

- Keep your letter to about 130 words

- Don't put anything in the letter that could be misconstrued – once it is printed you can't take it back

- Make sure the language you use is measured – write how you would like to sound when speaking to someone in a calm, measured and courteous manner

- End the letter from the person you want to show the letter is from. If you want your pastor to be attributed to it, put his or her name. Otherwise put your contact details at the end with a line 'not for publication' in case the paper wants to get in touch

- Don't give up if the letter doesn't get used – sending relevant, balanced letters that fit with the news agenda (and not sending hundreds on every issue) will be noticed by editors. It's important to build good relationships with journalists and editors over time, so don't give up

Example letters and comments:

Published letter to editor from our member Tearfund.

Some newspapers have a comment section where people can give their opinion – often slightly longer than a letter. See Steve Clifford's Comment Is Free piece in The Guardian on young Christians being at the forefront of the riot clean ups of 2011.

You can also put together letters with other organisations to show the wider support you have on an issue. Read letters the Alliance wrote jointly with others on bribery and education.

Example letters

The following two letters will give you a flavour of the types of letters that you can send in for publication:

The Association of Christian Teachers' letter was published in The Independent's education section.

Release International's letter was published in the Daily Telegraph.