Why Is Writing Letters to the Editor an Effective Tactic?
- Wide audience: Submitting LTEs to local and national newspapers and publications is a powerful and effective way to get the word out about a campaign to a wide audience.
- Public education: LTEs provide an opportunity to educate the public, policymakers, and the press on an issue.
- Apply pressure: Elected representatives and their staff frequent the opinion section of local publications to get a pulse on public opinion, making LTEs a great way to apply pressure to elected decision makers. As a matter of fact, if you explicitly name an elected official in a published LTE, you can almost guarantee they or their staff will see it.
- Center leadership of youth activists: Despite LTEs being an impactful tactic that is very much still relevant to our current political landscape, older activists are still most likely to utilize them. If youth organizers were to more frequently submit LTEs, it would help center the leadership and experiences of this generation among electeds, community leaders, and publications’ readership.
Preparing to Write Your Letter to the Editor
- Decide on the publication(s) you want to submit to. Research local and national publications, determine who publishes LTEs, and decide where you want to submit your LTE to.
- Know the word limit. Most newspapers will only publish letters that stay within a certain word limit — usually 150-250 words. You can check the word limit on the Opinion page of your publication’s website.
How to Write a Strong Letter to the Editor
- Introduce the topic. Be clear about what issue you are advocating around.
- Make it personal. Share your position and why you care about the issue or how it impacts you.
- Support with fact. Weave in 1-3 key statistics or facts about the issue.
- Include a call to action! This could be what you and your community members can do to solve the problem, what your elected officials need to do, or both! If any of your elected officials have a role to play in the issue, mention them by name and clearly call on them to take action.
Right to Learn Talking Points
Below are sample talking points developed by the ACLU and partners that aim to highlight the danger of efforts to ban books and censor robust classroom discussions.
- All students have a right to read and learn free from censorship.
- All students have a First Amendment right to read and learn about the history and viewpoints of all communities — including their own identity— inside and outside of the classroom.
- Book bans and classroom censorship efforts work to effectively erase the history and lived experiences of women, people of color and LGBTQ people and censor discussions around race, gender and sexuality that impact people’s daily lives.
- The first amendment protects the right to share ideas, including educators’ and students’ right to receive and exchange information and knowledge.
- Freedom of expression protects our right to read, learn and share ideas free from viewpoint-based censorship.
- Book bans in school and public libraries—places that are central to our abilities to explore ideas, encounter new perspectives, and learn to think for ourselves—are misguided attempts to try to suppress that right.
- All young people deserve to be able to see themselves and the issues that impact them reflected in their classrooms and in the books they’re reading.
- All students benefit from having access to inclusive teaching where students can freely learn and talk about the history, viewpoints, and ideas of all communities in this country.
- Every student should have the right to receive an equitable education and have an open and honest dialogue about America’s history.
Submitting Your Letter and Next Steps
- When you’re ready, submit your letter! Go to your publications’ website and follow their directions for submitting it online.
- Post your letter to the editor on your social media. Use other tools for strategic communication to share your message widely. Think creatively about the format you share this in — this could include sharing a video of yourself reading the letter and posting it with key people tagged on Instagram or TikTok, or sharing the link to your Twitter or Facebook after the letter is posted. Your personal investment in the issue is your biggest asset, so use it to create content that conveys how deeply you care about your chosen issue.
- Follow up with the publication. Call the paper the following day to make sure they received your letter. This call will help bump your letter up in the line. You can follow this script: “Hi, I am calling to make sure you received my letter to the editor and ask if you know when it will be published?…Great, thanks!”
- Check the publication each day after you submit your letter. Or set up a google alert if there’s a paywall. That way, you’ll know as soon as your letter has been published and you can begin sharing it on social media and email listservs so it reaches an even wider audience.
- If your letter isn’t published within a few days, make some tweaks and submit again. You can also try submitting the same letter to another paper — just make sure not to submit the same letter to the same paper in the same 1-2 day period. Take what you create and space it out over different publications and at least a week’s time.