Getting a letter in your local newspaper or your school’s newsletter is a good way to help educate others on life issues. But before you start hammering away at your keyboard, here are some helpful guidelines to increase your chance at getting published.
Follow the guidelines
Before you begin your letter, take the time to check out the guidelines for submitting letters to the editor. These can usually be found on a newspaper’s web site in the “opinion” section. Guidelines will normally spell out the acceptable word limit of submissions and the best method for submitting your thoughts. Age restrictions may apply. In the event that you have much more to say than the word limit allows, check to see if there is an opportunity to submit a guest column. Guest columns afford greater flexibility and length. Don’t think your letter is the exception to the rule! Follow the guidelines to the letter.
Research your topic
Once your opinion is printed, hundreds or thousands of people will be reading it. Needless to say, you want to be accurate in your facts. If you’re commenting on the abortion rate in your community, for example, take a few minutes to do some online research to solidify your facts.
You don’t have to be longwinded to get your point across. Write and rewrite your letter until you have eliminated unnecessary verbage. Sometimes less is better, and you may improve your chances that people will actually take the time to read your comments.
Stay on topic
Avoid the temptation to “take on the world” with your comments. Identify your main point and stick to it. There will always be more opportunities to send additional letters to the editor, so take it easy and stay on track.
Return confirmation calls or emails
You will always be contacted by the paper to confirm that your submisison is actually yours and not someone else’s. If you get a call or email asking to confirm your submission, be sure to reply. If you don’t respond, your submission will be deleted from consideration.
Observe submisison limits
Most papers will identify the number of submissions you are allowed to make in a certain span of time. See above on guidelines.
Don’t be shocked when your letter to the editor gets a heated response. Be cool and don’t let it get under your skin. Chances are the paper will not allow you to respond to such letters, but this is where your friends come in. When someone attacks your views with misguided comments and skewed facts, ask a friend to back you up by responding with a clear, well-thought rebuttal.
Never engage in personal attacks
There are too many petty people in this world who seem to enjoy personal attacks on others. Don’t be one of them. Never engage in personal attacks on individuals in your submissions. It may feel “right” at the time, but you will always regret it in the long run.
Always be courteous
Newspapers and school papers are not obligated to print your opinions. Always be courteous when suubmitting your thoughts. If you decide to launch on an editor for not printing your “perfect” thoughts, you can forget about getting future opinions published.
Use the link below for more information on how you improve the chances that your letter will end up in the newspaper — not in the editor’s wastebasket.