RESULTS Canada Media Panel - Writing tips for letters to the editor
On November 30, 2013 I attended the media panel session at the RESULTS Canada national conference in Ottawa. Panelists included Mohammed Adam (Ottawa Citizen editorial board member), Pierre Jury (Le Droit editorial page editor), Michelle Zilio (iPolitics journalist), and Lee Berthiaume (Post Media News Parliamentary reporter).
The following guidelines have been compiled from comments made by these panelists as well as from my experiences in sending letters to the editor.
You can use these to increase the likelihood that your letter will be published.
Guidelines for writing a letter to the editor:
1. Make it personal, not representing a group.
2. Make it short. Check the paper to see if there is a word limit. Some news media ask you to submit letters using a form on their website. Word limits on these forms range from 150 words/750 characters to 250 words. Some media may allow as many as 500 words for an exceptional story. Letters are often edited to about 100 words.
3. Do not abuse anything/anyone; keep it positive.
4. Use a compelling subject line.
Three types of letters that are compelling:
1. Use conflict; e.g. a church group did not meet a fundraising target;
2. Characters with compelling stories, e.g. Malala Yousafzai, Canadian doctors going to Syria;
3. Government lobbying, call on your MP to do something
4. Know who you are pitching to (national or local viewpoint depending on the publication). Make a local connection whenever you can.
Here are some other tips on letter writing from the RESULTS Canada website: http://www.results-resultats.ca/Tools/HowTos/LetterToEditorTips_eng.asp
And, UnpublishedOttawa.com has writing tips as well: http://www.unpublishedottawa.com/content/writing-tips