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Wednesday, May 14 2008

5 Tips For Getting Your Letter Published

Monkeybusiness_2Newspapers get hundreds of letters to the editor each day, and I'm seeing plenty of CCs. Here's how to boost your chances of getting published.

Read the article you're responding to.
You'll fool nobody and somehow reveal your ignorance to the very people most intimately involved with writing and editing the article you're critiquing. If you don't take the time to read their article, why should editors extend the same courtesy to you?

Keep your letter short, respectful and to the point.
This includes no improper language, personal attacks or going off on tangents. Calling a journalist anti-Semitic is counterproductive.

Don't copy and paste writing from elsewhere into your letter.
It's so tempting to copy and paste witty one-liners, expressive phrases, well crafted sentences, informative paragraphs or brilliant rhetorical questions from blogs, group emails, web sites etc. Plagiarism aside, how do you think I react when I see the same word-for-word material in 20 other CCs? Just delete your missive and save us all the trouble.

Send your letter to just one newspaper.
No matter how articulate you are, a letter sent to two, 20 or 200 papers isn't exclusive. It's a non-starter. This doesn't necessarily exclude the possibility of sending a CC to the President, Congress, the UN, uncle Morris, and me, but I'm not a fan of all that.

Sign your real name and include your phone number.
Stand behind your words. Don't sign a fictitious name or expect to be published anonymously. To bring order to the massive volume of correspondence and prevent fraudulent letters from hitting print, papers understandably have guidelines. Follow them.

If there's enough interest, I'll follow up with more tips.



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Before I started bloggging, I used to be a pretty regular letter writer. The second suggestion is especially important. It's true that reading much of media is frustrating and you might want to address 2 or 3 issues. Don't.

Address a single point. Letters editors don't want a thesis. Keep it short and to the point. Check out the third letter here for an excellent example of an effective letter.

Whoops, wrong URL for the letter to the editor. It should have been this. Like I said, check out the third letter.


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