Writing letters to newspapers of the right length and tone, at speed, means you might get – for what it is worth – some space on the Letters page. Not having this skill – well, tbh, it’s probably not the end of the world.
|You can write, with a bit of time, an entirely acceptable letter to a newspaper that has a good chance of publication. Your ego is robust enough to know you will – inevitably – have a typo or basic mistake in there and that somebody else needs to thoroughly proofread it||You can quickly craft a funny/serious and in any case clear and right-length letter that is free of typos or ambiguities, and in keeping with the kinds of letter that get published in newspaper x or y.||At the drop of a hat you can dash off letters to various newspapers on topics you are quite familiar with, that often end up as lead letter on the page because they are witty/wise/withering as circumstances require.||You can rattle off different letters on different topics to different newspapers, of differing lengths while legging it away from riot cops and fash (if you can tell the difference)|
Element Overview Essay
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The reason this is done badly or not at all is that it is a relatively geeky thing to do. Most people go through their entire lives without writing a letter to a newspaper.
The consequences of it not being done or being done badly is either voices aren’t heard, those with different views or letters don’t get published because they’re too long or too stroppy, or whatever. Which means that people who might be supportive don’t get to hear about what you’re doing.
The fixes are to have a good awareness of what kinds of letters your target publications publish. The tone is different for the mainstream news or the Financial Times or Red Pepper or whatever. To learn to be able to write quickly, in the relevant style to a word limit. So you might want to think about the length of letters that often get published. To have someone – and this is crucial- check over the letter, before it is submitted for clarity, typos, facts, you name it.
If you submit a letter and the facts are wrong, even though it’s uncomfortable, you have to publish a retraction or you have to submit a retraction because if you don’t, your opponents will and it will blow your credibility out of the water.
Letters to the editor can also be pithy and fun, and should be where possible.