Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

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Write a Letter to the Editor

You can play an important role in advancing human rights — with only a few hundred words!

The news goes with morning coffee on Capitol Hill. Letters to the editor (LTEs) can capture the attention of Members of Congress and people of faith and conscience across the country and encourage their action and support on human rights. 

See below for additional instructions, tips, and guidelines and let us know how we can support you to join us in submitting your LTE!

Before You Start: Outlet specific rules and guidelines

Focus on the outlets that you read for submission, in particular local and regional newspapers. Editors want to hear from their readers and you’ll have a better chance of success getting published if you’re speaking to members of your local or state community and some outlets require authors to be residents of their publication area.

Before you write your letter, check the newspaper you’re targeting and their online guidelines for LTE submissions (word counts, points of contact, etc.). Editors are very exact as to content and guidelines for letters in both their print and online editions.

Note whether or not a newspaper requires authors of letters to be residents of the media’s coverage area. If you’re outside their zone, then do a little homework to find another daily newspaper that matches your location.

Finding submission guidelines

  • Google the name of the newspaper or outlet you are interested in writing to and “letter to the editor;” for example: “Tulsa World”  “Letter to the Editor”. Note that a straight web search may pull up outdated versions of the newspaper’s editorial and letter submissions guidelines—be sure you’re looking at current instructions.
  • Go directly to the newspaper’s website and look for the opinion section of the paper and start searching from there.

Drafting Your LTE

Prospecting for the news hook

LTEs typically respond to a story, editorial, column, or comment quoted in a news report that the newspaper has recently run. You can respond to that content to refute a point or endorse a position. If you don’t have a story you read in mind, you can search the paper for a recent piece on story, op-ed, quote or commentary on the issue you’re concerned about—and don’t forget, UUSC staff are here to help if you come up empty handed!

Most editors want letters that respond to an article or commentary they’ve recently published. And by “recently,” some specify just a few days, preferably no longer than a week.

Make sure to include a link to the original newspaper piece within your letter.

Word Count

LTE limits are typically between 150 – 250 words. Some newspapers are more flexible. Major outlets are not. Note the word count limit and “write to fit,” cutting and reshaping as needed to fit within their guidelines.

Submission

Online forms or email addresses

Some LTE submissions are done only through a newspaper’s online form, and others list an email address for you to send the letter text and your complete contact information, including home address (to determine that you are local and a legitimate contributor) and phone number. While they may require it for the form, your address and phone number will not be printed.

If you are sending your letter via email, do not send material as an attachment. Include the text within the body of your email.

Editors may follow up with a phone call to confirm you’re who you say are and review any suggested edits to your submission, if they wish to carry it. Otherwise, they may email you with a “thank you, but no thank you.” It is also possible that you will not hear back at all or receive a form letter confirming receipt – don’t lose heart if you do not hear a positive response. We encourage you to keep trying and reach out to UUSC staff directly for support if you aren’t making inroads.

Good Luck!