Writing a Letter to the Editor

Writing a Letter to the Editor

Start a community conversation around your issue area and grab the attention of your Members of Congress by writing a letter to the editor (LTE) to local newspapers! LTEs are among the most widely read sections of any newspaper - including by Members of Congress. Furthermore, Members of Congress often rely on the media to gauge how constituents feel on relevant issues.

Successful LTEs inform policy dialogue or take a position for or against a specific policy issue. You’re more likely to be published if your letter (1) responds to a recent news article or event, (2) comments on an upcoming policy decision, or (3) praises or expresses disappointment in your Members of Congress as a result of a recent policy decision. Nonprofits are experts in their areas of specialty, and you should write your letter from this background, explaining in plain language how the policy decision will affect your nonprofit’s operations, the impact of your mission, or the communities you serve.

Tips for a successful LTE:

  • Begin by referencing your motivation to write:  a recent article, event, or relevant policy decision. Make the connection and make it relevant to readers.

  • State your point early and clearly, and don’t try to cover too many points. Tell a personal story paired with a fact or statistic about the local area. Remember, the general public doesn’t share your expertise in this issue—explain its importance and use plain language.

  • Clearly state your opinion about what your Member of Congress should do in response (you can mention them by name).

  • Be concise—LTEs are generally 200-300 words, 2-3 paragraphs with no more than 3 sentences each. After you’ve written your letter, ask someone else to look through it to see if anything is confusing or could be condensed.

  • Consider co-writing with other nonprofits affected by the policy decision. Letters can be published with multiple signers, or you can coordinate submissions with slightly different points from each of your nonprofits.

  • Don’t forget to include your contact information (full name, title, organization name, address, phone number, and email).

Even if your letter doesn’t get printed, you can still consider your submission a success! Newspapers use the LTEs they get to gauge public interest in topics for their stories. They’re also more likely to print an LTE that agrees with your point, even if it isn’t your actual letter. 

If you do get published, celebrate! Spread the word on social media, post it on your organization’s website, send it to everyone you know—use it as motivation for others to take action!