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Writing a “Letter to the Editor” 101

Writing a letter to the editor (LTE) of a publication in response to a recent article is an effective way to make your voice heard, add value, and create public dialogue.

There is almost always an article in the news cycle – local or national, print or online – to which you can respond to champion your reasons for supporting faster medical progress.

A few tips for writing an effective LTE and increasing your chances of publication:

  • Respond Quickly and Accordingly: When you see an article about research or funding and have something to say, write quickly (preferably within 24 hours) and send it into your publication of choice. It is important to editorial boards that the content they publish is current.
  • Check the Guidelines: Most publications have a webpage with guidelines to follow if you want your LTE to be considered; read the guidelines before you start writing and follow submission advice to the letter. (e.g. Washington Post LTE guidelines)
  • Share Your Story: Your reason for writing is an important opening sentiment that frames the rest of your argument. Make sure your reason for writing is clearly stated and specific. Responding to an article? Mention the name of the article. Sharing your opinion about a current event? Describe the event.
  • Be Assertive: Do not be shy in sharing your honest opinion. Editors are looking for novel and creative takes on the topics of the day and it may not pay off to be overly diplomatic.
  • Be Concise: Your main argument should be as concise as possible; guidelines vary, but LTEs are usually between 150 and 200 words.
  • Be Quotable: Every word in an LTE is important, but it’s worth putting special effort into crafting at least one quotable-sounding line or phrase. It will increase the chances of publication and help make the LTE memorable.
  • Proofread: Quality writing is almost as important as a quality argument. Make sure to proofread your letter before sending. (Pro tip: share with a friend or a colleague for a second set of eyes before submitting.)
  • Be Reachable: Don’t forget to include your full name and contact information; you may be contacted to verify your identity before publication.

Some additional resources: