Having something appear in print or online, especially in the district or state or the lawmaker you are trying to influence, can be a powerful tool. Congressional staffers monitor local media to see what their constituents are concerned about and a well written Letter to the Editor (LTE) can make a lawmaker change his or her mind or spur them to action.
The Association of Washington Cities has put together a handy guide to writing a good LTE:
Step 1: Focus on an issue that affects your community.
Become an expert. Know your facts. Make sure you have the background to be acknowledged as an expert on this issue. Your issue has to be newsworthy now!
Step 2: Identify a specific problem. Focus on how it affects your community.
Step 3: Be bold. Your first sentence, the first paragraph has to say it all. Be clear and bold in expressing your opinion. Be timely but not outrageous. If you could only print this one paragraph, would you persuade your readers?
Step 4: Defend your statement. This is the core of your LTE where you bring in the facts, statistics and third party opinions that back up your bold statement (see Step 3). Since you have only 500 words for this portion, the key is to stay very, very focused:
● Boil your argument down to three major points.
● Keep everything directly tied to your opening statement.
● Include emotion to make people care about your facts.
● Include a short scenario, vignette to personalize the issue.
● Educate without preaching. Make your style personal and conversational.
● Write at a level that appeals to the average reader.
Step 5: Propose a practical solution. End on a strong note. Restate your position and include a call to action. You have approximately 100 words to propose a strong solution to the problem you identified. If you skip this part, your op-ed loses credibility.
● Use simple, short sentences. You don’t have a lot of space for filler adjectives and adverbs.
● Avoid jargon.
● Eliminate passive verbs.
● Make your paragraphs short—no more than three sentences each.
● End with a concise bio that shows why you’re qualified to write this op-ed.
● Put your name, address, phone and email address on the bottom of the page.
How to get published:
● Your LTE MUST hook into a current event.
● Make sure you follow the guidelines for the LTE, know the word limits for each publication.
● Be ready to concisely explain why the issue is important. Why would the readers care and why the paper would want to print it?
● You don’t have to write the LTE by yourself. It’s ok to ask another person to work with you (like a ghost writer).
● Chances are good that they’ll welcome your piece. When you’re ready to send it (regular or email), include a cover letter that reminds the editor who you are, why you’re submitting the piece and your contact information.
● Once it runs, call and thank the editor for publishing your piece.
We hope this website provides you with enough information and facts for you to be able to write a powerful and effective op-ed. If you need any help, please feel free to reach out and we will gladly help you put together a piece to submit to your local newspaper or an online publication.
Next, let's see if you can schedule an in-person meeting with your district office.