MAP How to Write a Letter to the Editor

  1. The first paragraph should state the reason you are writing. The direct route works best:

    - "I am writing about" or "Thanks for publishing..."

  2. Short and to the point:

    - The shorter the letter the more likely it will get published.
    - The shorter the letter the more likely it will get read.
    - The shorter the letter the more likely it will be remembered.

  3. Use metaphors and analogies. Take note of ML King's "I have a dream" speech.

  4. Peat, repeat, peat and repeat again:

    - Repeat use of a phrase or word. Again, note ML King's "I have a dream" speech.

  5. Ask questions:

    - Use rhetorical and self-answering questions. Self-answering questions allow the writer to ask a question and then provide the answer in the next sentence or paragraph. I utilize this technique frequently.

  6. Vary sentence lengths and don't be afraid to use paragraphs.

    - Shorter paragraphs make your letter more readable.
    - Long paragraphs lend themselves to boring an average reader.

  7. Tell a story. The more personal, the better. Stories are powerful persuasion tools. Emotional stories go to the heart and gut. They are memorable. Good stories stay in the readers minds long after facts and figures are forgotten.

  8. The last paragraph is the most important! Make it short and to the point.

  9. Emphasize important values -- Freedom, Liberty, Justice, Privacy, Fundamental Right to Security, Public and Personal Safety.

  10. Make templates of your good letters. I send essentially the same letter to different publications. Don't do this with the major publications like USA Today, NY Times or the WSJ. They demand exclusivity.

  11. Recommended reading to improve your writing skills:
    • Words That Work by Frank Luntz;
    • Framing the Future by Bernie Horn;
    • Powerful Paragraphs and Stunning Sentences by Bruce Ross-Larson;
    • The Political Brain by Drew Westen
    • Artful Persuasion by Harry Mills.

Kirk Muse (Platinum Letter Writer)
Allan Erickson (Silver Letter Writer)