Short, concise letters are always more likely to be published than long ones; for The New York Times and other national media, stay under 150 words. Be timely; try to respond within two or three days of the article's publication.
- A letter to the editor should be organized as follows: First, a brief reference to the news story or current trend or development to which you are reacting. Next, a quick recitation of the argument you are opposing or correcting, followed by a statement of your own position. It is good to include an article title and date if you are responding to something specific. Then present your evidence. Close with a short restatement of your position or a pithy comment.
- Stick to a single subject. Deal with one issue per letter.
- Be kind. Editors tend to discard letters containing personal attacks on individuals.
- Use facts, figures and expert testimony whenever possible to support your opinion.
- Proofread carefully for errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Newspapers will usually edit, but your piece is more likely to be published if it is needs very little editing. When you think you are done, put the letter aside for a while. Rereading your letter with fresh eyes often helps spot errors.
- Try to view the letter from the reader's perspective. Will the arguments make sense to someone without a special background on this issue? Did you use technical terms not familiar to the average reader?
- The letter should be typed, double spaced, and addressed to the Editor. Look At the standard format in the paper to which you are writing if you are unsure of structure.
- Always include your name, address, day-time phone number and signature. The publication will not publish this information, but may use it to verify that you wrote the letter.
Example of a Letter to the Editor:
To the Editor:
Your front-page article (“College Pays Off, But Not for All,” Page One, Aug. 10) cites several important reasons some students are no longer seeing college as a worthwhile investment. But it also notes a fundamental truth: Americans with a college degree earn far more than those with only a high-school diploma. Students looking for the best return on their college education should focus on the results an institution delivers. At Pace University, we focus on a strong practical education grounded in the liberal arts. Our students have real-world opportunities to practice the things they’re learning about in classrooms, and our robust career services office ensures they find great first jobs that start them on great careers. We’re proof that the right college does pay off.
President, Pace University
- Don't be discouraged if your letter isn't published. The editor may have received more responses on that issue than can be handled. Keep writing.