How to Write Letters to the Editor

Writing letters to the editor (LTE) of your local or regional newspapers (or even national) is an easy and effective way to inform your elected officials and the general public how important a particular issue is to your community and the nation.

“Letters” pages are one of the most highly read sections of newspapers and magazines. From the standpoint of Congressional offices, letters to the editor are impossible to overuse. For many public officials, press represents the overall buzz in the community.

The best way to use letters to the editor are to correct or interpret recently released facts or biased articles, to explain the connection between a news item and your issue of concern, or to praise or criticize a recent article or editorial.

Here are some tips on writing letters to the editor:

Know the policy of the paper regarding publishing letters to the editor. Some papers have specific requirements about the length of letters and will not publish a letter if you do not include your full name, address, and phone number (although your address and phone number would never be printed).

Be timely. A letter to the editor has the best chance of being printed if it is in response to a recent article, op-ed, or editorial. (If the letter is a response, be sure to mention the name and date of the article in the first line of your letter.) You can also capitalize on recent news, events, or anniversaries. For example, the anniversary of an Act or other landmark legislation, the introduction of new related legislation, or the release of a new report that has implications on the issue provide good hooks for writing a letter to the editor.

Stay on message. Be sure your letters are concise, informative, and to the point. Focus on one subject. Keep the length to no more than three or four paragraphs. Make your first line short and compelling, and do not be afraid to be controversial.

Get personal. When it comes to local or regional publications, community is an especially big focus for newspapers. Editors often prefer, and thus print, letters that demonstrate local relevance. Also, by showing the importance of your message to local issues, it will likely have a greater impact on readers. Use local statistics, personal stories, and names of legislators or other public officials where relevant.

Use your credentials. If you have expertise in the area you are writing about, state it.

Follow up. Do not be discouraged if you letter is not printed. You can send a revised letter with a different angle at a later date.

Here is a sample LTE from AHA member Kent Munzer on the United States’ national motto:

To: Topeka Capital-Journal
Date: January 8, 2012
Printed: February 4, 2012

Re: National Motto is Anti-Freedom

You can lend your voice in support of American freedom today.  How?  Let me explain.

Congress is trying to pass a resolution renewing “In God We Trust” [which since 1956 has served as the national motto] and requiring it to be displayed in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.  “E Pluribus Unum” meaning “out of Many, One” had been our original national motto from 1782 until 1956.

I think E Pluribus Unum is a preferable motto – one that reaffirms our citizens’ shared freedom as Americans to believe in a God, some other god, or not to believe in any deity whatsoever. E Pluribus Unum is a preferable motto because it includes all Americans.

The motto “In God We Trust” is more fitting for a church whose members believe in a particular type of monotheistic god; if persons don’t believe in that type of God, then they are free not to join that church.

If the tables were turned, consider how ostracized believers in God would feel if the national motto were “In No God Do We Believe.” Now that might be an appropriate motto for an atheist club, but not as a national motto you’d want to see in every public school and government  building. No, such a motto would not be acceptable in a country like ours devoted to personal freedom.

In our country there are 10-15% [30-45 million Americans] like me who exercise their American religious freedom by not believing in any God. Plus, there are many millions more of Americans who believe in some of the other deities. For a majority in Congress to try to place their God in our national motto thus seems unnecessarily divisive. It bespeaks an intolerance for those who exercise their religious freedom differently from those in Congress. It is anti-freedom.

Since there are so many Americans who do not “trust in God,” our country would be much better served highlighting our shared cohesiveness and reaffirming our religious liberty with the inclusive motto, E Pluribus Unum . Please urge your Congressional representatives to put aside the current anti-freedom motto and support our original national motto: E Pluribus Unum.

—Kent Munzer

Humanist Network News will feature a “Your Published Letters to the Editor” section where you can see LTEs of other AHA members that have been published. If you’re LTE has recently been published, please submit a copy to Please include the name and date of publication, with a link to the published letter or scanned photocopy of the print letter.