Writing A Letter To The Editor

Cut to the chase and be witty to ensure your letter to the editor gets considered, rather than winding up in the reject pile.

Do you want to write a letter to the editor -- and ensure it has the best chance of being published? Keep it short, keep it focused and keep it within the bounds of good taste.

The bigger the circulation of the publication to which you are submitting, the more competition you face in having your letter selected. The letters editor may have hundreds of choices in each day's mailbag, arriving by ordinary post, e-mail or fax. To make sure your letter is compelling enough that the editor will not toss it in the reject pile:

1. Put your full first and last name, address, phone and/or fax numbers (day and evening) and your e-mail address at the top of the letter. Most publications will want to call the writer to confirm authenticity: (i.e. that you are using your correct name -- not a phony name -- and that you did in fact write the letter).

2. If you are referring to a previously published letter, a news story or column, identify it by its headline and the date it was published (Re: Davenport grinds out a win, Aug. 17). This enables the editor to quickly check the original item to verify any references you have made to it (i.e. quotes, statistics, etc.).

3. Cut to the chase. You don't need a long, rambling introduction to your subject. Just focus on one or two key points that you want to make and then get out.

4. Write short, punchy sentences, grouped in two or three paragraphs.

5. Be witty. Let your sense of humor and irony shine through. You can even be a little wicked, as long as you don't cross the line of good taste.

6. Avoid wornout cliches and weak puns (groan).

7. If you are responding to a columnist's views (or any other opinion piece), don't launch a personal attack on the columnist -- attack his/her views. Offer a countervailing opinion. Try to advance the debate so that other readers might join in the discussion in subsequent letters.

8. If you have read a news story or feature article that relates to something you've experienced, respond by putting your own personal twist on the subject.

9. Don't send copies of your letter to a whole host of publications. Make it an original to the publication you really want to publish it. If you don't get a confirmation call within a week to 10 days, then try submitting it elsewhere.

10. Don't be greedy. If your letter is published, wait at least a month before submitting another one. Letters editors want to give as many people as possible a chance to coment on the issues.

Go for it.

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