Letter to the Editor or Government
1. When the government or community upsets you, write a letter to your government representative or to the editor of the local newspaper.
2. When writing such a letter, use the business letter format to lend credibility and authority to your letter.
A. You want to establish yourself as someone that the government and society should listen to.
B. You want the government and the editors to be able to get to the information easily by having it in the correct location.
3. In a letter to the editor, follow this format:
A. Find an issue covered in a recent edition of that paper about which you believe the community needs to know your opinion or knowledge.
1. Issues that might fit a letter to the editor
c. Local government
e. Moral or political issues
2. A letter to the editor does not have to be a complaint.
a. You can thank people publicly.
b. A letter can be in praise of some action.
c. A letter can be a memorial.
B. In the first paragraph, identify yourself by your position in the community, refer to a story, and state your point.
1. Editors want letters about their coverage, so refer to it.
2. Make your point immediately so that editors know why you are writing.
C. In subsequent paragraphs, give support for your stand.
1. Limit your letter to 4 to 6 paragraphs, including the first paragraph.
2. Limit the paragraphs to two to three sentences.
3. Space carefully so that points can be easily recognized.
D. You do not need a closing paragraph, but sign the letter.
E. Try to keep your letter to fewer than 300 words (about 1-2 typed pages).
F. Sample letter to the editor.
4. In a political letter, follow this format:
A. In the first paragraph, identify your connection to the reader, refer to the specific issue (or bill) that you want action on, and what action you want on that issue.
1. As in the letter to the editor, give the reader something specific with which to identify.
2. State your position immediately.
B. In subsequent paragraphs, give your reasons for your stand.
1. Limit your letter to 4 to 6 paragraphs.
2. If you want the person to read extra material, add an enclosure.
a. An enclosure might be a petition.
b. An enclosure might be a letter, essay, or statistical information that relates specifically to the topic.
C. Add a last paragraph that tells the reader how to contact you by phone or email.
1. If you represent an organization or committee, use that body as the point of contact.
2. You invalidate your letter if you don’t provide a contact point.
D. Close politely.
1. Always say, “Thank you for your time and attention.”
2. Use “Sincerely yours” as the closing.
3. You’re the decent person here; make the reader know that.
E. Sample letter.
5. Be careful in how you make a complaint to a government official or to a newspaper..
A. If you say you are outrage, have a good reason to be outraged.
1. “I am outraged by . . .” is an overused clichJ.
2. Make sure that your subject deserves the clichJ.
B. Highlight the conflict.
1. Be specific about names, dates, and actions that illustrate the conflict.
2. Don’t generalize.
C. If you need to attack someone, be dignified.
1. Don’t use swear words or personal insults.
2. Stick to the facts and let readers judge the validity of your attack.
D. Being objective and using facts is much more effective than name-calling.
E. Sarcasm is acceptable.
1. Sarcasm is more acceptable in editorials than in government letters.
2. Don’t be sarcastic over particularly serious issues.
a. Being sarcastic over terrorism would not be appropriate.
b. Sarcasm about government officials is acceptable, so long as the issue isn’t life-threatening.
3. Let the issue determine your letter’s tone.
4. However, be sure that you do not get rude.
F. Sample letter to government official.
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