Public commentary has long been one of the most powerful ways to broadly communicate ideas. You are able to share your thoughts with legislators, journalists, and the community through a published letter to the editor (LTE).
How to write a letter to the editor – Letters to the editor (LTE) are written by readers of publications both large (major daily newspapers, magazine, etc.) and small (weekly community newspapers) on relevant topics. Many smaller publications often have highly engaged audiences, so writing to these publications can sometimes be more effective than focusing only on larger publications. Often these letters are submitted as a response to a previously published story. LTEs can also be submitted as a commentary on current events. A list of emails to submit letters to the editor for Canada’s top news publications can be found in the appendix.
Remember that editors receive hundreds of LTE submissions each day. Obviously they can’t accept and print all of them, which means what you write needs to stand out from the rest. Here are some tips that will help:
- Follow the rules. Some publications provide specific guidelines for writing and submitting an LTE, including who to send it to and how. These instructions are typically found in the LTE or ‘opinion’ section of the publication.
- Read the 'letters to the editor' section. Reading previously published letters can help you capture the style that editors are looking for.
- The opening line. Start your letter with ‘Dear Editor,’ and, if applicable, quote the article that you are responding to and the date it was published.
- State your position. Lead your letter by stating your position. Are you supporting the article, or wanting to set the record straight?
- Keep it short. Strive for 200 words or less by focusing on one or two of the most important points.
- Sign off. End your letter with “Sincerely,” then your name. You should also include a line that explains who you are in order to build your credibility. If relevant, this is a great place to show off your connection to the energy sector. For example, “I am an oil production engineer from Calgary who has worked in the industry for 20 years.”
- Review and edit. Spell-check your letter, and get a friend or family member to read it to ensure you haven’t missed any errors and that your argument comes through.
- Provide contact details as required. Some publications may require you to submit contact information with your letter so they can confirm it’s authentic. If you don't want your name published, be sure to indicate that at the end of your letter.