Letter Writing Tips

Women’s Leadership Handbook

Many newspapers are anxious to hear from their readers and to share information that has a local angle. Because of this, letters-to-the-editor can be an effective way to communicate information about agriculture and the Farm Bureau. It is important to remember that letters do not always need to be in response to a previous article or editorial. Rather, letters can simply be a platform to vocalize information that is positive about agriculture and Farm Bureau. More often than not, your letter WILL be published. To take advantage of this opportunity and to do so effectively, simply follow these letter-writing basics.

  1. Make it legible. Type your letter if possible, using double spaces. Write on only one side of the paper.
  2. Keep it simple. Be as brief as possible, while still long enough to make your case. Focus in on the basic idea in the first sentence or two so the editor can quickly determine why you are writing. Letters of 150 – 200 words are most likely to get printed, and least likely to get edited.
  3. Make it readable. Give specific examples to support your points. Use personal experiences when possible. Use short sentences and avoid using jargon. Avoid all long paragraphs.
  4. Make it timely. If you are responding to a news story or someone else’s letter, try to mail your letter within three days. Refer to the article or letter in your first sentence.
  5. Identify yourself. If you are writing on your own, identify yourself with a short introduction that explains why you are knowledgeable on this topic. For instance, “our family has been farming for over 20 years” or “as a farmer, I believe.” If you are writing on behalf of the county Farm Bureau or some other group, include that information at the beginning. At the end of the letter, sign you name and give an address along with a phone number.
  6. Address it properly. Use the following both for the address at the top of your letter and as the address on the envelope: Letters to the Editor, Newspaper Name, Newspaper address, and your salutation should be, “Dear Editor.”
  7. Keep a copy. If your letter gets printed, you will want to compare your original copy with how the newspaper published it. That allows you to make sure the intent of your letter was not changed by editing and that no crucial point was eliminated.
  8. Be persistent. If you send a letter and it does not get printed, do not get discouraged. Review letters that did get printed, especially on the same topic. You will probably see how you could have made yours more effective.