How to Write and Submit a Letter to the Editor

Have you ever read a news story or opinion piece that made your blood boil and led to an angry monologue at the dinner table? We certainly have.

From the litany of articles detailing right-wing attacks on reproductive rights in Congress to Trump’s support of international anti-choice funding policies that have hurt thousands of people, there are too many stories highlighting, and even championing, the right of congressmen — yes, men — to control our bodies. And it’s infuriating.

While venting to your friends, family, and colleagues about the hypocrisy of Ivanka’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (as her father strips reproductive rights from women everywhere) is a great way to engage your community, you can only reach so many people in person. How can you influence those outside of your social circles?

Write and submit a letter to the editor (LTE)!

An LTE can reach people outside of your community who have varying identities and political views. Want to influence your neighbors on the state of international reproductive health and rights? Write an LTE.

What is an LTE?

An LTE is a letter, usually around 200 words, submitted to a newspaper that responds to a recent article, or that offers an opinion about recent news. It’s a great way to insert your voice on a state, national, or international issue, and can be effective in getting the attention of your community, state legislators, and even U.S. senators and representatives. Here’s one example of an LTE we placed in The New York Times.

Step 1: Do a little research

LTEs are most effective when they call out a leader on their record. Use this tool to look up your U.S. senators and representative and view their voting records on reproductive health and rights. Pick one of your three legislators (each person has two senators and one representative) to either thank or criticize.

Step 2: Write your letter

Write about your passion for the right to comprehensive reproductive health care. To help you get started, here are two template LTEs—one thanking a champion and one calling out an opponent of reproductive health and rights.

Template A: THANK your legislator for their strong support for people’s reproductive health and rights around the world.

[Sen/Rep] is a leader in championing reproductive rights for communities not only here in [State], but around the world. In [State], [Sen/Rep] has [supported/opposed] [insert a couple specific examples of Sen/Rep’s support for reproductive health rights or against anti-choice legislation/comments].

Internationally, [Sen/Rep] also supports the Global HER Act, which would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, an awful policy that bans health care providers that receive U.S. aid from discussing abortion. Additionally, [Sen/Rep] supports repealing the harmful Helms Amendment and reinstating crucial UNFPA funding that Trump has slashed.

As a voter from [State], guaranteeing reproductive freedom for people around the world is important to me because [add your own story here!].

Abortion is essential health care and should never be up for debate. I’m proud of [Sen/Rep] for having a conscience and supporting reproductive health and rights for my community and people around the world.

Template B: CRITICIZE your legislator for their attacks on people’s reproductive health and rights around the world.

[Sen/Rep] has a record of supporting dangerous anti-choice legislation that impacts not only [demonym* by state], but people abroad. In [State], [Sen/Rep] has [supported/opposed] [insert a couple specific examples of Sen/Rep’s attacks on reproductive health and rights or support for anti-choice legislation].

Internationally, [Sen/Rep] supports the deadly Global Gag Rule, which bans health care providers that receive U.S. aid from discussing abortion, making it even harder for people in developing countries to access critical health care. Additionally, [Sen/Rep] supports the harmful Helms Amendment and Trump’s slashing of crucial UNFPA funding.

As a voter from [State], guaranteeing reproductive freedom for people around the world is important to me because [add your own story here!].

Abortion is essential health care and should never be up for debate. [Sen/Rep]’s attacks on the reproductive health and rights put countless lives in danger, both here in [State] and around the world. Shame on you.

Now, personalize the template in your own voice! Here are a few things to keep in mind when drafting your letter:

  • How would you recap your argument in one sentence? Make sure that you incorporate this one-sentence recap into the conclusion of your piece so that your main takeaway is top of mind for readers.
  • Are you responding to a recent article? If so, what is the key point of the article you’re responding to? What do you agree/disagree with about this key point? What examples/experiences support your argument? When drafting your letter, make sure your reaction to the article you’re responding to is clear, concise, and includes at least a couple examples/experiences demonstrating why readers should believe you.
  • What are the submission guidelines of your local newspaper? While letters are usually about 200 words in length, every media outlet has its own specifications.

Step 3: Submit to your local paper

When your letter is ready to go, submit it via email. Some newspapers have an online page to submit, which you can also use. Be sure double-check their submission guidelines and best practices and be careful not to submit the same content to more than one paper. If you don’t hear back from your first outlet within a day, send a follow-up email. You can even give the newsroom a call! If you haven’t heard back or seen your letter printed after a few days, you can submit your letter to another outlet if it still seems newsworthy.

Please contact Lindsay Apperson at lapperson@popconnect.org if you have any questions. Happy writing!

* e.g. New Yorker, Texan, Californian

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