Write a Letter to the Editor
A letter to the editor (LTE) is a short letter to a local newspaper or publication that gives your opinion on an issue, and calls on local or Federal politicians, or fellow community members, to take action.
We’ve put together a tool to help you get started. Each tab below includes some tips and a walk-through, and instructions on how to submit your letter to one of the local papers in Canberra.
Why write a letter to the editor?
Believe it or not, the letter to the editor section is one of the most widely read parts of a newspaper (along with the Sports page). These letters can help shift community opinions on important issues by:
Raising awareness: A letter to the editor (LTE) is a great way to raise the profile of an issue.
Responding rapidly: Many publications print LTEs within a day or two of receiving them, making them one the most effective actions when trying to respond quickly to new developments or announcements.
Sending a message to politicians: LTEs show local and Federal politicians that their constituents (that’s you!) care passionately about an issue and will hold them accountable.
Energising supporters and thanking supportive politicians: Published letters fire up local supporters and show supportive politicians that their constituents have their back when they lead on important issues.
Persuading: LTEs can show how an issue affects local people in a way that those on the fence—including politicians—can sympathise with.
Do’s and don’ts of writing letters
People read LTE’s to find out:
- How local people think or feel about an issue.
- How an issue is affecting their community.
- What the major impacts of an action could be.
People do not read LTE’s for:
- In-depth policy talk: LTEs should be short and personal, demonstrating the local connection to an issue and the views of community members. You don’t have to be an expert to share your personal story. Many papers rarely print letters that are long or broad.
- National political debates: People turn to TV and large publications to learn about the national debate on the issues. LTEs that don’t focus on the community will likely not be selected for publication in a local paper. (However, the Canberra Times will sometimes publish letters on national issues.)
Writing your letter
Keep it short. Stay within the publication’s rules—likely no longer than 250 or 300 words. Shorter letters are the most effective. Get to the point.
Tell your story. Make the issue human by describing how the issue has affected you or someone you know. Start your letter with a brief personal story—yours or someone else, like family, a coworker, or a friend. Even someone you’ve met on a plane or bus ride, or in line at the grocery store can be a great subject for an anecdote.
Know your audience. What type of publication are you writing for, and who is reading it? Keep things local.
DON’T delve into policy. Avoid using a long string of dull facts—there’s not enough room in 300 words to make a nuanced policy argument, and your passion is more powerful.
Use powerful language. Let your feelings show. Use powerful verbs and descriptive nouns. Write short, punchy sentences. Vary sentence length. This will help your letter stand out and make it more likely to be published.
Make a call to action. End your letter with a specific call to action to your local lawmakers or community members. Your LTE will only be effective if it gets others to take action!
Check for proper grammar and spelling. Ask a friend to take a look at your letter before you submit. Letters with error will likely not be published, or they might be published with the your errors.
Send your letter
Use the form below to send a letter to the editor to one of the local Canberra newspapers.
After you get published
After you send your LTE, keep an eye out! Many publications, especially small ones, may not tell you if you will be published because you have already given your permission by sending it.
If you are published—Success!
Congratulations! Your message is being heard.
Make sure to reshare the message on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. Use the sharing featured on the website to send it to family, friends, and neighbours to help it rise on the “most e-mailed” or “most shared” list if the site has one.
Also, make sure you let us know.