Last updated: 9/8/2020


Tips for writing a great Letter to the Editor

The Letters to the Editor section is one of the most read sections of the newspaper--by the public at large, and especially by decision makers who are trying to get a sense of public opinion. Published letters allow us to educate the public on our campaigns and influence decision makers. And a letter from a local citizen has a larger impact.

How To

1. Be Concise: A letter should be under 200 words and is more likely to be printed if even shorter.

2. Focus on one clear point: Pick one fact, aspect of the issue, or story for the letter.

3. Make it personal: The best letters are compelling and unique, rather than purely reasserting the facts. It is appropriate to convey your outrage, but avoid exaggeration.

4. Reference/Respond to a recent article/letter/event: Newspapers are more likely to print letters that show relevance and timeliness to issues the paper is already covering. Look through the paper for a story about the issue you are writing on or some other way to connect it, but don’t force a connection.  You can also link it to current events or anniversaries (Three-Mile Island, first national park etc.)  to make it timely & relevant.

5. Follow-up: After you've sent your letter, call the editor and ask when they're going to print it. They get hundreds or thousands of letters a week, this ensures they read yours.  

6. Sign your letter with your name, address, and phone number.  They will usually call to confirm the letter before they run it.  

Sample Outline:

-  Use a catchy lead (personal, clever);

-  State the problem/topic (why you are concerned and make it real for the reader);

-  State the solution – name names if appropriate (i.e. ask Senator Smith to do X);

-  Wrap it up with the final why – the more personal the better.  

Talking Points: 

  • Allegheny County is in the top 2% of counties for cancer risk from air pollution, meaning that it’s safer to breathe almost anywhere else in the US.

  • More than 70% of the industrial air pollution reported in Allegheny County comes from just 10 sources-- the Toxic Ten. The facilities emit dangerous pollution linked to cancer, asthma, and other health problems.

  • The Allegheny County Health Department needs to take bold action to protect our health. The Health Department has taken steps in the right direction recently, including levying  record fines against a major polluter, but much work remains to be done.

  • Throughout Toxic Ten Week, we’re calling on County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to finally rein in industrial pollution by working with the Health Department to:

    • Make sure the “Toxic Ten” have up-to-date Clean Air Act permits

    • Set stricter pollution limits on the Clairton Coke Works

    • Enforce meaningful penalties for illegal pollution

    • Give our environmental watchdogs the resources they need to go toe-to-toe with massive corporations