Write a Letter to the Editor
A letter to the editor (LTE) is a great way to increase awareness about important issues or causes in your state. You can write letters to the editor of a local newspaper, online magazine, or blog as a way to share your opinion, along with facts about the cause and ways to get involved in your campaign.
Similar to writing an op-ed, your LTE can be focused on more of an emotional experience with your cause, or it could be more straightforward and fact-based. Keep in mind the readership of the outlet you are sending your LTE to in order to help determine what kind of writing style is most appropriate for your piece. Also, keep in mind that your LTE could take a stance of agreement with or opposition to the original piece you are responding to.
We’ve included an example LTE below, in response to a hypothetical article about a rise in global childhood obesity rates. Before we dive in, here are some key points to remember as you write your own letter:
- You can respond to any article that you feel relates to your cause as a hook to get the editor’s attention with your letter.
- Your LTE should be short and concise, up to 250 words max. Most publications have guidelines for letters to the editor, so check with the publication before submitting your LTE.
- Include your name and contact information (including phone number) when you submit your letter. The publication will often call to verify that you truly submitted it.
- Create a title that offers a preview of your subject matter and attracts the attention of your audience.
- Talk about the issue from your perspective. Why is it important to you? Why do you think it would be important to people in your community?
Ex. Safe Routes help keep kids safe and healthy!
Make sure to include the author’s name, title, and date of the article, so that people can go back and read the original piece.
Regarding [AUTHOR]’s article, [TITLE & DATE OF ARTICLE]:
Include statistics and facts about the issue early on—this can help support your agreement or disagreement.
A busy street. No sidewalk. Poor traffic regulation. These are just a few of the obstacles keeping our children from being healthy and putting them at risk for developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Why? Because these unsafe conditions prevent children from doing something simple: walking or biking to school each day. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends every child have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. And kids who walk or bike to school arrive more ready to focus in the classroom. Walking or biking to school is one simple way to help kids reach this goal. However, we must address safety concerns before parents can feel comfortable allowing their children to walk or bike to school.
Include a solution to the problem, tying your cause to the article. In this case, safe routes to school can keep our children healthier and safer.
The Safe Routes to School program, established nationally in 2005, provides funding for cities and states to implement these types of projects. However, since that time, federal funding has decreased, creating a need for state support to fill the gap. It’s up to us. We can help build and protect safe walking and biking routes, and ensure the continued expansion of Safe Routes to School programs.
Our leaders need to take action. An investment in Safe Routes to School is an investment in our children’s futures. When our kids have safe routes and are able to bike or walk to school, they are more eager and ready to learn, they are healthier, and our streets are safer.
Be sure to sign your letter with your name, organization affiliation, or campaign name.