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A Letter to the Editor (LTE) is an easy way to make a BIG impact. Editors do not publish every LTE, but they do pay attention—especially to letters that are well-written and connected to an article they just published. Here are a few helpful tips:
Writing Your LTE
- Make it relevant. Relate your LTE to an issue recently (within the last day or two) discussed in the publication to which you are writing.
- Be concise. The first sentence should summarize your position. One of the biggest mistakes in LTE writing is using the first paragraph (or the entire letter) to build to the point. Most editors read 2-3 sentences before making a decision to go on.
- Mind your word count. Check the LTE guidelines for the paper you are targeting. If they give a word count, follow it. If they don’t, 200 words are generally considered the maximum length. Many papers will not consider LTEs that exceed the word count.
Submitting Your LTE
- Many newspapers have specific format requirements, so please check the paper’s website before submitting. Always include full contact information for the author(s).
- Follow the guidelines. Follow the outlet’s rules regarding LTEs and make sure to adhere to the guidelines on length.
- Spell everything correctly and pay close attention to grammar—letters are not usually edited, rather the outlets select well-written letters that meet their guidelines.
- Email your LTE to ensure timeliness. To do this, paste the LTE text into the body of an email—DO NOT SEND AS AN ATTACHMENT. You may also fax it, but sending it electronically is generally the preferred way to receive LTEs.
- Follow up. Once you have submitted your LTE, follow up with a call 24 hours later to find out if it will be printed.
Sample Letter to the Editor
We’ve drafted the following LTE template to help guide you. Please feel free to use this version, or draft your own from scratch!
To the Editor:
First way to start the letter: I want to thank Rep [ ] and or Senator [ ] for his/her continued and strong support for biomedical research funding).
A second way to start the letter: As the Congress continues to work on many challenging budget issues, I urge Representative [YOUR REPRESENTATIVE’S NAME HERE] and Senators [YOUR SENATORS’ NAMES HERE] to support robust funding for the National Institutes of Health.
Body of the text: NIH research funding is an investment in our country’s future. The funds are used to support the development of treatments and cures for a wide range of diseases and conditions. In addition, it supports talented scientists in every state—including this one—who every day are working discovering critical medical breakthroughs.
Insert: Personal story
Full funding for NIH is critical if the agency is to continue to serve as the world’s preeminent medical research institution and our best hope for finding cures, improving treatments, and gaining a better understanding of the complex causes of diseases that affect millions of Americans. The agency conducts research that is too expensive and risky for private industry to undertake alone but has led to major advancements in our understanding of rare diseases and disorders, as well as historically prevalent diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, and Parkinson’s.
I will be watching for our congressional delegation’s leadership on this issue.