Writing Letters-to-the-Editor and Opinion Pieces

Letters-to-the-editor (LTE), commentaries, and op-eds can help advocate for research funding and educate the public about scientific issues. They are widely read by elected officials, their aides, and people in your community. Here are some tips for writing and submitting a letter or op-ed to your local newspaper.

Write Your Letter

  • Make it relevant. Your letter may have a greater chance of posting if it is in response to an editorial, op-ed, or front page story within 2-3 days of publication. Begin your letter by citing the original story by name, date, and author
  • Be concise. The first sentence should summarize your position
  • Make it personal. Share your expertise to show you have credibility on the subject matter
  • Avoid jargon. Spell out any name the first time you use it, followed by the acronym in parentheses
  • Make it local. Newspapers prefer to print editorials and letters that address local issues. Consider including federal funding data for your state and district
  • Mind your word count. Abide by the requested word limit, guidelines, and rules listed on the website. If no word limit is given, keep it short–250 words or less for LTEs and 750 words or less for op-eds

Submit Your Letter

  • Find the directions posted on the publication’s website about how to submit a LTE or op-ed. (For example: Submit a letter to The Hill)
  • Be sure to include your name, street address, and daytime phone number; the publication may contact you before printing your letter
  • Adhere to the guidelines for the paper you are targeting. If they give a word count, follow it
  • Spell correctly and pay close attention to grammar—letters may not be edited. Editors typically select well-written letters that meet their guidelines
  • Submit your letter via online form or email. Paste the letter text into the body of an email—do not send as an attachment
  • Follow up. Call the publication if your letter hasn’t appeared within a week to ensure it was received and considered
  • If your letter is not published, do not consider your efforts a failure. Many factors play a role into whether an LTE or op-ed is published. The editors may remember your efforts and publish your next submission

Sample Letters-to-the-Editor and Op-eds