Writing Letters to the Editor

Opinion pages are one of the most read pages in the newspaper, by all layers of society including public officials. Short form letters to the editor (LTEs, ~250 words) or longer-form opinion editorials (op-eds, ~750 words) are a great way for the public to chime in on important topics and even influence the long-term arc of a particular publication’s coverage.

The LTE or Letter to Editor is a brief but effective way to complement, criticize, correct, complete, or say anything relevant to a recent article. Submit to paper within one week of article’s release if possible, and no later than two weeks.

Suggested format:

  1. Email Subject Line = “Title of original article”
  2. Body of email = URL of original article, then your plain text letter (stay comfortably within word limit – keep it tight)
  3. Full name (plus your title if relevant to discussion)
  4. Home address, email, best phone #
  5. NO: special formatting including italics, special fonts, attachments, or images

The Op-Ed or Editorial Opinion is a submission to the features page and may be in regard to any timely issue. It is often longer than an LTE and must be exclusive to that paper. If not published in 10 days, you can usually re-submit elsewhere, after improving of course.

Individual Submission Requirements

Washington Post (washingtonpost.com)

LTE: letters@washpost.com  (< 200 wds). Include position and reason for concern in subject matter.

Op-Ed form: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/opinons/op-ed/submit/ (< 800 wds). Copy/paste your letter in plain text only and don’t use brackets. Include info about personal interest in the subject in Comments box.

Washington Times (washingtontimes.com)

LTE: yourletters@washingtontimes.com (200-300 wds)

Op-Ed: commentary@washingtontimes.com (< 750 wds)

Capital Gazette
The Capital, Maryland Gazette, Crofton-West County Gazette, Bowie Blade-News_(capitalgazette.com)

LTE: capletts@capgaznews.com (< 300 wds)

Op-Ed: rhutzell@capgaznews.com (< 650 wds). Local writers and then local issues given priority.

Carroll County Times_(carrollcountytimes.com)

LTE (<400 wds) and Op-Ed: cctnews@carrollcountytimes.com

Frederick News-Post_(fredericknewspost.com)

Fill in LTE at: https://fredericknewspost-dot-com.bloxcms-ny1.com/site/forms/online_services/letter/

Delmarva Times_(delmarvanow.com)

LTE: newshub@delmarvanow.com (no word limit)

Baltimore Sun_(baltimoresun.com)

LTE: talkback@baltimoresun.com (< 300 wds printed, but anything with substance may appear online)

Op-Ed: commentary@baltsun.com (600-750 wds)

Baltimore City Paper_(citypaper.com)

LTE and Op-Ed: bsoderberg@citypaper.com

Baltimore Afro-American_(afro.com)

LTE: boulware@afro.com (300-500 wds)

Op-Ed: khigh@afro.com (600-800 wds). Must be relevant to African-Americans.

Wall Street Journal_(wsj.com)

LTE: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com (no limit – keep it tight or they will edit for you)

Op-Ed: edit.features@wsj.com (600-1200 wds). Preface with brief summary of content/perspective.

NY Times_(nytimes.com)

LTE: letters@nytimes.com (150-175 wds)

Op-Ed: opinion@nytimes.com (400-1200 wds preferred but any considered)

Writing Guide

  • Respect the editor’s time and they’ll return the favor. Editors are swamped and notice mostly non-euphemistic language. “I believe…” is useless according to one editor. Be concise, limit argument to one point and close it. Avoid phrases evoking war such as ‘in the trenches’ or ‘waging battle’ because glib use of such terms is not appreciated by vets who know what they really mean.
  • Why do you care? Add punch by invoking personal interest (financial, medical, familial, academic, etc.) Increase potential interest of the readership by sticking to local issues. NO FORM LETTERS! Read the form, put it aside and then write your own. The perspective is yours; this is not the place to speak for the Sierra Club. If you are an expert or public figure, anyone can alert the target legislator, organization, or company to your letter.
  • Debate – don’t argue. One meaningful addition – something unknown/appreciated – is worth more than a general overview that is more common knowledge. Back it up with info, not emotion (never be libelous). Secondary sources are often incomplete and biased. Look for primaries such as scientific research, publications, or interviews. Ranting/restating an alternate point of view disqualifies your letter.
  • Papers prefer a broad sampling so pace your submissions (quality, not quantity). But anything worthy is considered and if not printed, may appear online – a more permanent medium. The more LTE’s received in reference to a particular issue, the more compelled an editor is to print at least one. So if you feel it, write it – no need to delegate submissions amongst ourselves.

Thomas Feyer, opinions editor of the NY Times, sums up how to get printed:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/opinion/23READ.html

Sample LTE

For Michael Dresser’s “Hogan holds back on joining Virginia, other states in climate alliance”:

Dear Editor,

Michael Dresser’s June 6 article “Hogan holds back on joining Virginia, other states in climate alliance,” although providing a fairly accurate overview of Governor Hogan’s current position regarding climate initiatives, perhaps fails to stress the baseline nature of the Paris agreement. Of course, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement is disheartening and reprehensible. However, it is crucial to remember that if Hogan decides to honor the Paris agreement he will be agreeing to what is a lowest common denominator of climate action. If Maryland hopes to meaningfully contribute to the fight against climate change, Hogan must not only honor, but go above and beyond the Paris agreement. The article does well to mention the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, as well as Hogan’s expressed support of it. As with Paris, though, this initiative is a start to this fight, and not an end. If Maryland hopes to be a leader, we must be constantly looking for ways to push innovation in the clean energy economy rather than merely meet baseline requirements. Doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would demonstrate to the world that Maryland is open to the future of business, which will run on clean renewable energy.

Name, Address, Email, phone

See our Media Contact Page for additional reporters.

Information courtesy of Maryland Sierra Club Op-Ed Tool Kit.

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