Have a strong feeling about something you read? Write a letter to the editor (or, if it’s a commentary, contact the writer). Letters exist to provide a forum for public comment or debate. A letter to the editor is meant to express your opinion or point of view.
To send a letter to the editor of any online newspaper, the email address for the Letters Editor can generally be found under “Contact Us” at the bottom of the home page.
NOTE ON POSTING COMMENTS: Online editions of many newspapers, in addition to inviting readers to write “letters to the editor,” also allow readers to post comments directly below articles. News websites that only have an online presence (e.g., YahooNews) generally don’t include a “Letters to the Editor” section. Instead, most allow readers to sign up to post comments directly below the article. The guidelines for comments vary. People are for the most part permitted to comment anonymously. “Comments” differ from “letters to the editor” in that there are no specific guidelines, except to refrain from profanity, and the stipulation that inappropriate reader comments may be removed by the website administrator. Some comments do not appear to be well-thought out arguments, but rather revert to the use of rude or inflammatory language (insults and name-calling) to express opinions about a topic.
After some especially inflammatory comments in response to a news article, the Buffalo News (NY) newspaper decided to discontinue anonymous user comments on its website. In order to post comments, readers will now be required to register with their name, city of residence and phone number — more information than most news sites require — and staffers will attempt to verify their identities. Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan said: “It is the ability to remain anonymous that encourages people to say whatever they want [online]…when people are required to give their names, our thinking is that they’ll think twice,” and added that vetting commenters will be a “challenging” task. “There might be people who slip through the cracks.”
STUDENTS: Remember when posting any comments online in any form — if you are not sure if you should post it, DON’T POST IT.
GUIDELINES FOR LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
Be TIMELY: Write your letter within a day of the article’s date.
INCLUDE CONTACT INFORMATION: Include your full name, city, state, phone # (many news organizations will call you to verify you really wrote the letter – most will not print anonymous letters).
BE CLEAR: Make one main point.
BE CONCISE: 1- 3 paragraphs, 3-8 sentences, 40-100 words. Short letters show confidence in your position.
BE ACCURATE: Letters that are factually inaccurate are not printed.
BE INTERESTING: Get your reader’s attention and keep it to the end of your letter. Open with an interesting fact or strong statement and keep your points as interesting as possible.
AVOID PERSONAL ATTACKS: Show respect for the opposite opinion. Being rude may cause people to disagree with you on principle.
PROOFREAD: Re-read your letter. Check for grammar and spelling mistakes. If possible, ask another person to read your letter for accuracy and clarity.
DON’T WORRY IF YOUR LETTER IS NOT PRINTED: Even if it is well-written, it might not be printed if it addresses the same issue as letters already printed.
In your email, use the following format:
To the Editor: (If writing directly to the writer, substitute Dear Mr./Ms. ___)
Re: “headline”, Date of article
Your full name
Your phone # (Only if requested by news organization)
For sample letters, see: The Wall Street Journal
Read several letters from the site you are writing to for an idea of the types of letters that the editors print.