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 letters are among the most frequently read items in the paper. 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 population growth and overconsumption issues relate to other current news items.
• A chance to furnish insight on the importance of covering population and sustainability in local news sources.
• A correction of facts about population trends, livestock production or energy policy.
• A rebuttal to a news story about cutting reproductive health access or promoting increased meat consumption.
• A chance to discuss the local impact of an enormous global issue and raise public awareness of population growth and overconsumption in your city or town.
WRITING AN EFFECTIVE LETTER TO THE EDITOR
• Find out your newspaper's policy for LTEs, including word limits and who they should be sent to. Most details are posted on the newspaper's website.
• Be concise. Even if the paper you're writing to does not explicitly limit the length of letters it publishes, shorter letters tend to get published more often.
• 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 section 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. If your letter hasn't appeared in the paper a few days after it's submitted, contact the paper to see if it will run. 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.
You can read some letters that have already been published through our Population and Sustainability program, some for our World Population Day campaign.
July 3, 2014 – "Letter: Slower population growth benefits all," Gordon Carmichael, The Salt Lake Tribune
July 3, 2014 – "Population growth is taking a toll on wildlife," Lisa Rutman, The Express-Times
June 27, 2014 – "Population growth affects panthers' survival," Stephanie Feldstein, Miami Herald
May 19, 2014 – "Letter: Humans one of the endangered species," Gray Griffin, The Salt Lake Tribune
April 30, 2014 – "Meat production," Chicago Tribune