There are many ways to be an advocate but the written word can be powerful in ways that other forms of communications do not. Writing a letter to an editor could be seen by tens of thousands of people and amplify your voice to help drive change.
Letter to the Editor
Reaching out to the masses through print has proven to be an effective way of making your voice heard while exercising your first constitutional right. America was built by the press; our ability to share information without fear of persecution from the government has been a long cherished privilege. Writing a letter to an editor could be seen by tens of thousands of people and positively affect public opinion.
Here is some tips for Writing a Strong Letter to the Editor:
- Letters should be short and concise, under 300 words in length.
- Your most important points should be stated in the first paragraph.
- Letters should be relevant and refer to a hot topic, recent event in your community or to a recent article.
- Letters should begin with “To the Editor” and should include your name, title and contact information.
- Make your letter easy to read and concise; short sentences, short paragraphs and simple words are best.
- Keep your letter positive. It is more important to emphasize your points and what people need to do to help instead of making things more confusing
- Target your letters, especially to areas that have had little coverage on the issue.
- Try to imagine who will be reading your letter and think of what their particular concerns are and what arguments might be persuasive with them.
- Don't be discouraged if your letter is not printed right away, or printed at all. Even if only one out of ten letters is printed, you have reached thousands of readers.
- Remember to send letters to smaller, local papers in addition to the papers with larger circulation.
View the Richmond Times-Dispatch Letter to the Editor guidelines here. Visit the website for other newspapers for additional guidelines for writing and submitting letters to the editor.
Op-ed pieces are the commentary pieces that appear in the newspaper op(posite) from the ed(itorial) page and are written to grab the attention of various groups, including elected officials, business and community leaders and the general public. Write about your positions on pending legislation and public policy, and submit it as a letter to the editor of your local newspapers. The editors select pieces for publication based on interest to readers, originality of thought, timeliness, freshness of viewpoint, strength of the argument and the writer’s expertise on the issue.
Tips for Writing a Strong Op-Ed:
- Pieces should be about 600-900 words.
- The subject of the piece should be timely and newsworthy.
- Pieces should express a single, clear point of view and be supported by facts and statistics.
- Writing should be powerful and appeal to a general audience.
- Engage the reader in the first couple of paragraphs, whether it's by beginning with an interesting anecdote or question, a provocative statement, or a colorful quote.
- Make ample use of anecdotes and quotes. They keep the reader going. Make sure your quotations are accurate, both the actual words and context in which they are used.
- Back up assertions with facts, and double check them.
- Anticipate questions a reader might have, and try to answer them.
- Pieces should end leaving a lasting impression and with a clear call to action.
- Follow up ruthlessly. Did they get it? Will they print it (and when)? Can you adjust it to their specifications, etc?
The Richmond Times-Dispatch offers the following guidance:
The Times-Dispatch favors columns of 650-750 words, submitted exclusively to this newspaper (email@example.com), about a state or local issue, or any other issue by a local/Virginia writer with particular expertise in the subject matter. The piece should be focused on public policy rather than on institutional or organizational promotion. Check your local paper for examples of Op-Eds. Here is an example Op-Ed about students with autism.