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WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR

A letter to the editor (LTE) is one way to reach large audiences — even writing to a small-town or city newspaper can have a big impact, because the letters to the editor section of the newspaper is read more frequently than any other. When published, letters are often perceived by legislators and other decision-makers as a highly credible expression of mainstream community and public sentiment.

Your letter to the editor can provide:

• An explanation of how your issue relates to other current news items.
• A chance to furnish insight on news and issues not being adequately covered by your local newspaper.
• A correction of facts after a misleading, inaccurate or biased letter or story.
• A response to other editorials.
• A rebuttal to a news or feature story.
• A chance to cover the local impact of national issues and raise public awareness of an issue in your city or town.

WRITING AN EFFECTIVE LETTER TO THE EDITOR

• Find out your newspaper's policy for LTEs. Call the newspaper and tell them you would like to write a letter. Ask to whom you should address the letter, in what form you should send it, and what length or other restrictions the newspaper might have.
• Be concise. Even if the paper you're writing to does not explicitly limit the length of letters it publishes, it will be to your advantage to keep your letter short and succinct.
• Stick to one subject. You're much better off writing a widely read letter about one topic than writing a letter that touches on many topics but isn't read — or, worse, isn't published — because it's too long.
• Be timely. Newspapers will rarely print letters about subjects that aren't in the news. Use a recent news event or recently published article as a hook for making your letter timely.
• Don't assume that readers will know what you're writing about. If you are writing about pending legislation, explain what that legislation is, what its effects will be, and when it will be decided on. If you're writing in response to an article or editorial, start your letter by saying which article you're responding to and when it appeared.
• Use your credentials. If you have personal experience or expertise in the subject area, mention it.
• Concentrate on the local angle. Newspapers are community-based and the letters to the editor column is where they interact with the community most explicitly. Any local angle on the subject you're writing about will increase the impact of your letter and increase its chances for publication.
• Follow up. Call to make sure the newspaper has received your letter, and then call a few days later if it hasn't been printed to find out if it will be printed. If they tell you it's not going to be printed, make sure to ask why so you can incorporate changes into your next attempt.

Save the Clean Air Act Sample letters

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Clean Air Act is under attack. 

There are numerous bills working their way through Congress that would gut, delay or weaken the Clean Air Act’s ability to curb greenhouse gas pollution. A bill by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) would exempt greenhouse gases from regulation under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and other bedrock environmental laws, while a bill by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) would repeal Clean Air Act rules to curb carbon pollution for two years. HR 91, a bill by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that has already passed the house, would gut the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide and other dangerous pollutants.

Moreover, there have been a number of attempts to attach Clean Air Act-gutting policy moves to existing pieces of unrelated legislation — including budget legislation — as amendments.

Please take a minute to write a letter to the editor of your local news outlet to tell others that you oppose all moves to gut, weaken or delay the Clean Air Act’s ability to curb carbon pollution — and email Climate Campaign Coordinator Rose Braz to let her know you’re taking action. Below are some sample letters, and we’d be happy to help you locate the correct email addresses if needed.

• Save the Clean Air Act, sample letter 1, sample letter 2 and sample letter 3: attacks on the Clean Air Act
• Save the Clean Air Act, sample letter 4: budget bills

Return to Take-action Toolbox.

Visit the Center’s Clean Air Act Web page.

Photo © Robin Silver