on theOpinion Page
The opinion page is called the
“debate society that never adjourns.”
• The opinion page of the newspaper is one of the most widely read.
• Coverage can be challenging to secure, but this is content you
• Many lawmakers pay close attention to what people are saying in
their local papers.
• The letter to the editor format is short.
• It allows you to have a say on the big discussions of the day in your
community and to reach and influence a diverse group of people.
Tips for Writing a Strong Letter and
Getting It Published
Know the rules and where to send it.
Many newspapers have strict limits on the
length of letters due to their limited space to
publish them, so make sure you know the
rules and keep within the limit.
Also, make sure to include your contact
information for verification.
What’s your hook?
Just like a good headline, you
want an interesting subject or
title for your letter. Many papers
will include them when they
publish and this can help get the
attention of the editor.
Open your letter with a strong
The statement might point
out an error or misrepresentation
in an article, disagree with an
editorial position, or add to the
discussion by pointing out
something readers need to know.
If the issue is new to readers,
what is the big thing you want
people to know?
Focus on one subject or event.
Keeping your letter brief
will help make sure that
your important points are not
cut out by the editor and that
people understand the points
you are trying to get across.
Think about referencing the newspaper.
While some papers print
general commentary, many
are more likely to print letters
that refer to a specific article or
topic that they have covered.
Think about referring to an
article on a related topic in the first
part of your letter or in the submission.
Be accurate and compelling .
If you have facts or statistics
to back up your point,
include them but make
sure not to just rely on
numbers or studies. Make
sure people understand why the
numbers matter and what they
mean to real people.
Include a call to action.
What is the point of writing
this letter? What do you
want people to know or do or
What’s in the
• Subject – what is this about?
• Hook – why should people care?
• Strong opening paragraph.
• 1-2 paragraphs to provide information about impact and key
• Closing with a call to action.
• Avoid jargon – keep it straightforward.
• What are your “sound bites”?
Subject: Put Families First (Word Count: 198)
Threatening a new mom with jail time does not help improve her life, the life of her family
or the public health of our communities. Addiction is not a choice. It is not something to
be judged or demonized. It is a health issue. The Pregnancy Criminalization Act is an out
of touch and cruel way of addressing the very real problem of addiction in Tennessee.
Punitive measures like this one have proven to be ineffective time and again, and yet our
state chooses to waste our limited tax dollars locking up mothers instead of making their
healthcare needs its top priority. Only this type of support ensures successful outcomes
for mothers and their children. It is clear to me that this law puts politics ahead of the
needs of families in our state.
Estimated costs of treatment programs are a mere fraction of the costs to incarcerate
mothers and avoids the very real and likely human costs of tearing families apart. Putting
mothers behind bars is not the solution. We need to support all people struggling with
addiction with the information and treatment programs they need to be well and be
present with and for their families.
Send letters to variety of papers.
The smaller the newspaper's
circulation, the more likely it is
that your letter will be printed. Just
don’t send the exact same letter to
more than one paper.
US Newspaper List
Follow-up and make your case.
Some papers get hundreds of letters per day and many of them may be on
the same topic. Call the newspaper and ask for the opinion editor. Make
sure they received your letter and make a quick pitch on why yours should
“I sent in a letter this morning emphasizing the fact that abortion clinics in
Tennessee are already well regulated, which included information about the
standards that are already in place. There is a lot of misinformation out
there. I hope you will publish my letter. Thank you.”
If at first you don’t succeed…
The fact is that your letters will not always be published and they may have a
limit on how often one person can have a letter printed. Make sure you are
following the rules. Keep on submitting and calling.
If you have a publication that you continue to send pieces into that never runs
them, think about calling that editor. Introduce yourself. If you are in their
community or circulation area, let them know. Ask them if there are certain
things they look for in a letter or if they have any tips.
What are your other options?
You have something to say – what about a post
on social media or a blog post? If you can’t fit your
thoughts into the word limit, think about an
Did you get your letter printed?
You worked to get the issue out there – share it. Post your
letter on social media, share it with friends and encourage
them to share it and to write their own!
Make it Timely. Follow the Rules. Make your Voice Heard.
We have an opportunity right now! We need to get letters out to
build support for our legislative agenda and ramp up attention on
the pregnancy criminalization law.
Are you in? We will send around a toolkit tomorrow with sample
letters. We hope you will consider writing a letter(s) and using
the information you learned tonight to help us to urge Tennessee
lawmakers to advance policies that support women and families.