Write Letters to the Editor

write-the-editor

Letters to the editor are a powerful way to push back on false narratives about our lives and communities. Learn how to make your voice heard.

Contents:

Crafting a Letter to the Editor
Writing Tips: Be clear, concise, and compelling
Get your letter published
Publications’ Guidelines on letters and longer online commentaries

Crafting a Letter to the Editor

First, think through your goal. Your letter is a message to the media’s audience, not to the editor.

Keep it short. Short is powerful, attractive to readers, and usually required for publication.

Make one key point. Start with it. Don’t back into it.

  • If you must say more, check into submitting another kind of commentary.

Refer to a story or opinion in the target publication, preferably within 2-3 days.

    • Make a strong opening statement and put the title and date of the article in parentheses at the end of the sentence. Don’t waste time with “I’m writing about …”

Don’t repeat opponents’ messages. Change the subject or reframe, and start with your message.

    • Ex: Instead of “The UT reported only a small group protested, but…,” say “Thank you to the hundreds of people who rallied downtown Thursday to express…”
    • NOT (from today’s U-T):

Bill Colford’s letter bashing “liberals” in California implies that those liberals do not work, and that there are fewer jobs in California due to the “liberal” policies of regulations, taxes and fees. ¶  His position flies in the face of reality. The structure of taxation…

Use your personal experience and your own voice.

    • Be selective. Use only a few details that are relevant to your point.

Avoid insults, name-calling, and sarcasm. It’s better to debate facts than criticize opinions.

    • It’s ok to be angry, but don’t rant. You want to reach and persuade other people.

Verify your facts. Don’t exaggerate.

If you are trying to influence specific officials, name them. That helps ensure they see it.

Whenever relevant, mention SURJ as a resource or upcoming SURJ actions.

  • Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is a national network organizing and educating white people to take action in support of racial justice. Join us at surjsandiego.org.

Writing Tips: Be clear, concise, and compelling

Write in your own words. Don’t repeat platitudes. Be creative.

Remove nonessential words. Examples: “I think,” “sort of,” “seemed to,” “begin to,” “at the end of the day” – Besides making your letter shorter, this makes it stronger.

Use strong, active verbs. “We will resist” vs “We’re going to be resisting.”  “I saw…” vs “It was my observation that…”

  • Passive verbs ok to draw attention to the receiver of action (“The students were taught…”)

Cut out most adverbs and adjectives. If it ends in -ly, try the sentence without it.

For clarity, keep the subject and verb close to each other, preferably at the start of the sentence.

Don’t use all CAPS or more than one !  The strength of your statement must come from the words themselves.

Use kitchen table language instead of jargon. Avoid acronyms or spell out the full name first, followed by the acronym in parentheses. Ex: Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ). Not necessary with FBI, etc.

Read your letter out loud. Edit until it sounds like you talking. Have someone else read it and ask them what main message they got.

 

Get your letter published

  • Always check guidelines for letters on the publication’s website, especially word count limits and what contact info they require. The guidelines may be on the Letters page or under About or Contact Us.
  • Email your letter in the body of the email, not as an attachment. The subject line is “Letter to Editor re: {your topic}”
  • Don’t send the same letter to two publications that compete – until one rejects it.
  • Don’t be discouraged if your letter isn’t published. Most aren’t, but all letters are read and have some influence on the selection of other letters. Keep trying!

Publications’ Guidelines on letters and longer online commentaries

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE

E-mail letters@sduniontribune.com. Include full name, community of residence and a daytime phone number (not for publication). 150 words maximum. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. The U-T will publish no more than one letter from the same author within 30 days. The policy is to publish letters supporting or opposing a particular issue in a ratio reflecting the number received on each side.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

150 words maximum. Include full contact information. You will be contacted if they wish to publish your letter. Submit via an online formwww.latimes.com/about/la-letter-to-the-editor-htmlstory.html

NEW YORK TIMES

Letters should be exclusive to The New York Times, preferably 150 to 175 words, should refer to an article within the last seven days, and must include the writer’s address and phone numbers. No attachments. Send to letters@nytimes.com.

SAN DIEGO CITYBEAT

Email editor@sdcitybeat.com or check here: sdcitybeat.com/article-18079-Letters-Free-Hugs.html

SAN DIEGO READER

We welcome letters pertaining to the contents of the Reader. Phone them in at 619-235-3000 x460; address them to Letters to the Editor, 2323 Broadway #200, San Diego, CA 92102; fax them to 619-231-0489; or complete the form below: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/letter-editor/ 

VOICE OF SAN DIEGO

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/about-us/submit-a-commentary-to-vosd/ 

Submit a commentary to VOSD by email to kinsee@voiceofsandiego.org. 800 words max, and must be exclusive to VOSD. We require a real first and last name, as well as a broad area of town where the author lives and/or the author’s official title with relevant organizations. We’re an online publication so we strongly encourage folks to provide links/documents to studies, reports and other news stories to be included as source links.

SAN DIEGO FREE PRESS

San Diego Free Press gives preference to submissions about local and regional issues with a grassroots and progressive perspective. Write about what you know and what you care about. Send submissions to contact@sandiegofreepress.org.

  • Most articles are around 1,200 words, or less. Please spell check and edit carefully. If immediately time sensitive, say so in the subject line.
  • If you state something that is not a commonly known fact or as the basis of an argument, please provide links. If you can’t embed the link, paste it next to the sentence.
  • If you have personal images or have identified a fair use image, attach as a JPEG, with source info.
  • Provide a short biography. (3-4 sentences)

 

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