A letter to the editor (LTE) is another effective way to influence elected officials and educate others. Members of Congress are particularly responsive to letters in their constituents’ local newspapers. There may be no easier way to make a public statement of support for wolves than a writing a letter to the editor.

LTEs can be used to correct and clarify facts in a previous news story, oppose or support the actions of an elected official or agency, direct attention to a problem, spur news editors to cover an issue that is being overlooked, or urge readers to support your cause. Letters to the editor are especially effective in local community papers.

Tips on Effective Letters to the Editor

  • Research the guidelines. Most papers have a length limit on letters to the editor. It is usually around 250 words, but be sure to find out before you begin writing. Also find out where to submit your letter (typically via email).
  • Be timely. Responding to a current hot issue or a recent article or editorial is one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting published. Be sure to mention the name of the article and the date it was written in the beginning of your letter.
  • Find a local angle. Newspapers, at their core, are community entities. Editors will be much more likely to publish a letter, and the letter will have much more impact, if it demonstrates local relevance.
  • Assume nothing. Do not assume that your readers are informed on your topic. Give a concise but informative background before plunging into the main issue. Refer to any newspaper article or editorial to which you are responding by date and title.
  • Keep it short and simple. Keep your points short and clear, and stick to one subject. Make your first sentence short, compelling and catchy. Keep it well under the word limit.
  • Get a new signer. Most newspapers won’t print multiple letters from one person over a short period of time. If you’ve already published a letter, get someone else to sign future ones.
  • What makes someone an expert? Someone with a closer-than-normal perspective on the issue is an expert. This may include a local rancher discussing non-lethal measures with carnivores, or hunter talking about the importance of coyote and wolf identification education.
  • Avoid form letters. Do not send the same letter to two competing papers in the same circulation area, or many copies of an identical letter to a single paper.
  • Use personal stories. Try to personalize the issue you are writing about. Say why you care and what it means to you. For example, if you’ve taken your kids out to see wolves in the wild, or were lucky enough to hear wolves howling or see tracks, reference these experiences in your letter.
  • Edit your document: Have some fresh eyes look it over for the requirements above.

Sending Your Letter

  • Paste your final letter into the body of an email (don’t send as an attachment).
  • Put the editor’s email address in the “To” field.
  • Put “letter to the editor” in the “Subject” line.
  • The salutation should read, “Dear editor,” followed by your letter.
  • Include your name, address and phone number with the letter. They won’t print your info, but papers must call to confirm authorship before running a letter.
  • Follow up!  If you don’t hear from the paper within 2 days, call the editor to ask whether it will run.

Sample LTE

Dear Editor,

On May 17, 2013, America will celebrate endangered species success stories, including the protection and recovery of the American bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, and the American alligator. The U.S. Senate has unanimously proclaimed “Endangered Species Day,” providing for the national celebration of America’s commitment to protecting our wildlife heritage.

One reason for the nation’s success in protecting wildlife is the Endangered Species Act which has prevented the extinction of hundreds of species, including the gray wolf, the grizzly bear and the humpback whale. The Endangered Species Act provides a safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction.

(You can add something here about endangered species in your area or that you have seen.)

Endangered Species Day provides an opportunity to learn more about the wide variety of actions that we can take to help protect our nation’s wildlife, including building backyard wildlife habitat and supporting local efforts to clean up rivers, parks, and other natural areas.

I encourage everyone to do something to celebrate our nation’s commitment to protecting endangered species. Protecting America’s wildlife today is a legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren, so that all Americans can experience the rich variety of native species that helps to define our nation.

Your Name
Your Address
Your Phone Number