How to Write a Letter to the Editor

A student sent me an e-mail asking for advice on how to write a letter to the editor. I found plenty of web resources that are designed to help volunteers write letters designed to get a particular message out — that is, Citizens for the Defense of Rutebegas offer specialized tips for how to write letters that raise awareness of the plight of rutebagas.

I wanted something more general. On rhetorica.net I found a good overview of the general form of a persuasive letter.

Letters to the editor should be thought of as bits of a sustained civic conversation. You are not going to change hearts and minds with a single letter. But you might have a chance with several, well-written letters offered over time. Write for the moment. Write for the one point you’re making today. Don’t write as if you expect to slam-dunk the issue for all time. Ain’t going to happen.

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To conclude: You do not have a First Amendment right to be published in your local newspaper. You do, however, have the right to publish your own newspaper, or a blog, or you can stand on a soapbox and speechify to your heart’s content.