Writing a Letter to the Editor: A Guide

23.07.18 By

So you’ve sat down with your Sunday morning coffee and pancake stack, settling in for a long relaxing morning reading the paper. But before you’ve even managed to take a bite, a headline jumps out at you. As much as you try to take a deep breath, let it go, and enjoy the syrupy goodness of your breakfast, you find that you just can’t. This one silly article is really grinding your gears. Sure, you could send a message to your group text and spend the next 45 minutes typing various strings of words, curses, and emojis to your friends while your coffee goes cold. But it’s more than that. You want everyone — the very writer of the piece, even — to know exactly what you think about this. With a crack of your neck and a squeeze of your knuckles, you have arrived: it’s Letter to the Editor time.

What is a Letter to the Editor?

Since the mid-18th century, Letters to the Editor have been key conduits for social and political discourse; ensuring topics close to the hearts of communities remain in the public eye. And even today, in our increasingly digital age, newspapers and magazines continue to publish letters written by their readers to stimulate discussion and represent an array of public opinion.

Due to their brief and direct nature, Letters to the Editor remain amongst the most-read sections of newspapers and magazines — online and in print. This means that whatever you write — should it be published — will be read by a large number of people with a variety of perspectives; neighbours, MPs, and mayors alike.

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Why should you write a Letter to the Editor?

Whether responding directly to a specific article or simply sharing your own thoughts, a Letter to the Editor can be a powerful tool for sparking conversation and can help keep the topics that impassion you in the public eye.

You may already have a specific objective you want to achieve by writing to the editor, but some climate-specific purposes of a Letter to the Editor might be:

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So you know what it is and why you should write one. The pen you pulled out to do the cryptic crossword with is now clenched between tense fingers: you’re passionate, you’re compelled, and you’re ready — but wait: how do you actually go about writing it?

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How do you write a Letter to the Editor?

Open with a greeting

Something as simple as ‘To The Editor’ will do; however if you know the editor’s name, use it — this may increase the possibility of your letter being read and published.

Spark the reader’s attention

Your opening sentence will be vital for the success of your letter: it should immediately inform readers what you’re writing about, and entice them to keep reading.

If you are writing in direct response to a previously published article, cite its date and title in the first sentence. If not, introduce your argument clearly, and go from there.

Following the opening, the structure of your letter should go something like this:

(Image Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash)  

And that’s it! You’ve written a Letter to the Editor! To make sure it’s worthy of publishing, however, keep in mind these quick tips:

Don’t give up! Newspapers and magazines receive a huge amount of letters — far more than they have room for, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t see yours published straight away. Keep writing, because dedication and persistence pays off.

Sample Letters to the Editor

Sample One: Extreme Weather & Community Impacts

To the Editor of The Brisbane Times:

Your recent article ‘South-east Queensland is droughtier and floodier than we thought’ (22 June 2018) hit home for me — literally and figuratively.

Born and raised in the Lockyer Valley, I have witnessed the devastating consequences of our extreme dry spells, and the worsening quality of our water — things that are destroying our communities. What angers me most is that no one is making the link between this and climate change.

Recently, the Climate Council released a report revealing that 57.4% of Queensland is in drought after the record-breaking high temperatures and dry winter of 2016/2017 — direct consequences of climate change.

There could be real solutions for our communities if we and our representatives made this link, but our politicians are leaving us behind with their disregard for climate change and renewable power. When will the change come?

— Rebecca G., Gatton, QLD

Sample Two: Renewable Energy Uptake

To the Editor of The Daily Telegraph:

Australia is the sunniest country in the world, and one of the windiest.  We have enough renewable energy resources to power Australia 500 times over!  So let’s get the facts straight on renewables and power prices.

Contrary to ‘The Madness of Renewable Energy’ (19 February 2017), renewables are the cheapest form of new power, and new renewable energy is driving down electricity prices because the operational costs of renewable energy are very low.  By 2030, most of Australia’s coal fired power stations will be over 40 years old. Once coal fired power stations reaches this age, they become increasingly expensive to run, and increasingly unreliable — particularly during heat waves.

Between 2006 and 2016, states with the lowest growth in wind and solar generation (Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales) experienced the largest increase in their electricity bills. This goes to show it’s completely unreasonable to attribute renewable power to expensive power prices.

— Geoff R., Glebe, NSW

Sample Three: The National Energy Guarantee

To the Editor of ABC News:

When I read ‘Renewable energy investment hits new high but ‘likely to fall off a cliff’ under NEG’ (18 January 2018), I was dismayed.

The recent increase in renewable energy investment in Australia (with a massive 222% increase in investment in large-scale renewable energy between 2016 and 2017, can you believe it!?) has proven that our electricity industry is willing to step up to the challenge; that the sector can — and will — respond to the push for greater renewable power.

Enter the NEG. How the government thinks this is supposed to safeguard our future is beyond me.

Industry experts and state governments alike are expressing their concerns over what the NEG’s dismal emissions reductions targets will mean for Australia going forward: that we will not meet our end of the Paris agreement, that we will jeopardise our future and the future of our children, and that we will miss our chance to make real, lasting change.

— Steph P., Fitzroy, VIC

 

Letter to the Editor Contact Details

To get you started, here are the contact details for some of our largest newspapers. Of course, there’s a plethora of local newspapers that are just as worthwhile writing to as well.

National

To submit a letter to The Australian, go here.

For more information on writing a letter to the Australian Financial Review, go here.

For contact details for The Guardian Australia, go here.

 

New South Wales

To submit a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald, email [email protected].

To submit a letter to The Daily Telegraph, go here.

 

Australian Capital Territory

For more information on writing a letter to The Canberra Times, go here.

 

Victoria

For more information on writing a letter to The Age, go here.

To submit a letter to the Herald Sun, go here.

 

Queensland

To submit a letter to the Brisbane Times, go here.

To submit a letter to The Courier Mail, go here.

To submit a letter to the Cairns Post, go here.

To submit a letter to the Gold Coast Bulletin, go here.

To submit a letter to the Townsville Bulletin, go here.

 

Western Australia

For more information on writing a letter to the Fremantle Herald, go here.

For contact details for WA Today, go here.

For more information on writing a letter to The West Australian, go here.

 

South Australia

For contact details for The Adelaide Review, go here.

To submit a letter to The Advertiser, go here.

 

Tasmania

To submit a letter to the Mercury, go here.

To submit a letter to The Examiner, go here.

 

Northern Territory

To submit a letter to the NT News, go here.