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Tips for writing effective Letters to the Editor

(Note: The following blog has been adapted from “24 Reasons to Hope: of The Climate Reality Project”)

Solving the climate crisis is within our grasp, but we need people like you to be the voice of reality. Because it’s our planet that is in danger. Our future is at stake. And we do have a voice!

Use yours to write a letter to the editor. Discussing the reality of the climate crisis is your chance to change minds and ensure the people you care about know what is happening to the planet – and what they can do about it.

A letter to the editor (LTE) is a short opinion piece written by individual readers of any given newspaper. An LTE can be anywhere from 150 to 250 words on average, and usually discusses topical issues or responds to a recent article in the newspaper itself.

The opinion section of the newspaper is among its most widely read, after sports or the front page. By publishing here, your issue will be front and center for many readers to read. It’s an incredible educational tool. For some, it will be the first time they’ve heard of the issue; for others, it’ll be an excellent way to catapult them into action.

Writing an LTE is simple. There are only three tips you need to follow:

  • Keep it simple, making only one point throughout,
  • Keep it short, 150 to 250 words should be your maximum, and
  • Make it personal – LTEs that tell a personal story are published much more often and get much letter reception than on-personal LTEs.

The best LTEs also include a call to action at the end. They don’t just discuss the problem; they give readers an opportunity for a solution.

To get your LTE published, look up the local newspaper(s) in your area and find the opinion section. There, they’ll often provide an email address expressly for LTEs. A web form where you can submit your content may also be provided. But remember to proofread your entry before sending it to make sure there are no errors and that it conveys your message fully and powerfully.

Once you have submitted an LTE, you’ll want to follow up within two to three business days. Send an email to the editor asking about the status of your LTE. Be as friendly as possible!

Some ideas for LTE topics (you will have more ideas) include: Write about the impact of climate change on your local area, e.g., if on the West Coast, focus on clean air, forest fires, and erosion of the coast line. If in the Midwest, focus on clean energy, the pollution of the Great Lakes or the cancer-causing chemicals used by various companies for industrial uses. If you are in the Eastern part of our country, focus on the impact of the coal industry, the erosion of the coast line, and drought in the Southeast. In the South, focus on agribusiness practice and animal farming. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Zero Waste, low carbon transport, waste and resource management, forest fires in the Amazon, and reducing the use of single-use plastics have no geographical boundaries.

And don’t forget: Be Creative!

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Sisters of Providence Political Engagement Team

The Sisters of Providence Political Engagement Team is an arm of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Climate Change Task Force. Members of the team are Sister Marilyn Kofler, Sister Barbara Battista and community friend Cynthia Sartor.

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