Factsheet: How to write a letter to the editor.

Writing a letter to the editor is a great way of sharing your knowledge and concerns about alcohol-related harm in your community. However, not all letters get published so it’s important to make your letter stand out. Here are a few tips that will give you an edge.
Find out the newspaper’s guidelines
Some newspapers require you to submit your letter online, while others allow you to post them. Go to their website and have a look. You will also need to find out what their word limit is (this usually ranges from between 150 to 250 words). Stay within the required limit if you want your letter to be published! The shorter a letter, the more likely it is to be printed.
Figure out why you’re writing the letter in the first place
Are you responding to an article the paper has published, commenting on a current issue, or providing more information on an issue?
Be timely
Is it topical? This is one of the most important things to consider when you are writing a letter to the editor. If it’s been in the news recently you have a better chance of your letter being published.
How to structure your letter
Like all stories, your letter should have a beginning, middle and an end. Start by outlining what you are responding to. If you are responding to a recent article, include the article name and date published. Next, state your position on the issue, and then follow with what you think should be done. If you have any evidence, include it. (But remember, keep it brief.) Then close the letter with one sentence that summarises your point of view. Try to address just one issue, be clear and to the point. Always be respectful if you’re writing to disagree with someone or something. Maintaining your passion while being polite will get your message across more effectively.
Example of a letter to the editor
Dear Editor Your story, “15 Drink Driving Arrests Over Weekend” (13/04), highlights the worrying increase in drink driving in our small town. These figures are alarming and something must be done to address this issue, as drink driving has had a huge impact on many families in our community. I believe it is not just up to police, but everyone in our community to reduce drinking driving. We all must take responsibility to look after our family and friends. Simple things such as not letting your friends drive home after a party and not topping up peoples drinks at parties so they can keep count of exactly how much they’ve had to drink. Our local pubs also have to carry some of the responsibility. I believe that venues should provide free soft drinks/juice to someone who identifies themselves as a designated driver as a way of encouraging the practice. Also, I think that patrons should have access to a free Alcohol Breath Test to check if they’re over the limit before they get behind a wheel. We as a community must work together and look out for each other more, and venues must step up and take more responsibility if we are to put an end to drink driving deaths in our town.  

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