Letters to the Editor | American Lung Association

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Letters to the Editor

Sending a letter to your local newspaper editor is a great way to engage in public debate and educate community members about issues important to you, including lung health matters. Here are a few tips to help you write a letter to the editor (LTE):

  • Check the newspaper's guidelines. Each publication has its own set of LTE submission rules, so before you begin writing, visit the paper's website or print version to learn them. These include word count, submission requirements and tips on getting published. Failure to follow these guidelines will remove your LTE from consideration for publication.
  • You must sign the letter. While this can depend on the newspaper, most editors require your full name, street address and phone number when you are submitting an LTE. Editors sometimes call the writers of LTEs to verify information. Most newspapers will not publish your personal contact information.
  • Respond to articles. Letters that are in direct response to something that has recently appeared in the paper – an article, column or another LTE – have a greater chance of pickup. In your letter, include the name of the piece that you are responding to. While this is a best practice, most papers will still allow you to write LTEs about topics not already published.
  • Keep your message direct. If no word count is listed, keep your letter to about 250 words. Lengthy submissions are less often printed, and it’s easier for readers to understand your points when you are clear and concise.
  • Be professional. Editors will edit for grammar and style, but since the letter may be published for the public to read, make sure to only include statements you feel strongly about and can support. Stay away from vulgar and hostile language.
  • Tell your story. People relate to people. By putting a face to the issue and sharing your story, you can help inspire people to take action.
  • Make it local. Tell readers why this issue is important specifically to their community and how it matters in their own backyards.
  • End with a call to action. This is your chance to encourage people to do something, so use it. You can encourage lawmakers to take action on a piece of legislation or readers to join in support of an issue.
  • There is no guarantee your LTE will be published. At bigger newspapers, editors receive more letters than they have room for. That shouldn’t discourage you. Keep writing.
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