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

Talking Points on Value of Federally Funded Biological Research

FASEB created a new slide presentation that includes examples and data on the health and economic impact of federal funding for biological research. Here are some tips and talking points for how to use these slides at district meetings with members of Congress, scientific talks, and public outreach events:

Tips for Use in Advocacy Activities

  • Pre-prepared slide notes include supplementary resources, such as supporting details, further background information, FAQs, web links, and citations
  • Modify, reorganize, or add slides as needed to meet time constraints or to shape the message for a particular audience
  • When appropriate, include the personal health stories of patients and caretakers to illustrate how real families are touched by life-saving breakthroughs in biological research

Talking Points

  • The federal government currently covers over 50 percent of biomedical research costs at American colleges and universities. The national investment is indispensable
  • Breakthroughs in bioscience have led to vaccines, drug development, dramatic advances in preventative care, new medical technologies, and even the Human Genome Project
  • Despite increased opportunity for discovery and growing demand for funds in the research market today, federal support for science has not increased in over a decade.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has lost 16% of its capacity to support research since 2003
  • As a result, the US is failing to keep pace with growing foreign research and development investments, particularly those originating from China, Russia, and the European Union
  • Congress plans to increase federal appropriations for biomedical research by $6 billion between 2016-18, a proposal that needs strong bipartisan support
  • Urge congressional representatives to support this budget increase. Continued growth in biological science supports the nation’s health, security, and quality of life