As a published author, and as a frequent contributor
of letters to the editors of a number of newspapers, it
is my experience that newspaper editors typically reject
long letters, for a variety of reasons. Often, newspapers
publish submission guidelines that, among other things,
give the limit on the number of words a letter to the editor
may have. If these guidelines aren't published, the paper
should be contacted and the information requested in order
to increase the chances one's letters may be published.
With respect to guidelines on word counts, the following
examples are fairly typical:
The /San Francisco Chronicle/ limits letters to the editor
to 200 words, OP Ed. pieces to 800.
The /Washington Post's/ limit is 250 for letters, and
600—800 for OP Ed. submissions.
Eugene, Oregon's /Register-Guard /sets their limit
for letters at 250 words.
A quick count shows Monica's letter to be over 800
words in length. Chances that it will be published
are not as high as they might otherwise be.
Allow me to offer a few suggestions for writing letters to
newspaper editors that will increase the likelihood that
they will be published.
1. Be concise! Every line in a newspaper costs money!
Moreover, the shorter your piece is, the greater the
likelihood that your readers won't lose interest in
what you've written before they finish reading it.
2. If you don't want an editor to delete words, and even whole
sentences from your work, write clearly, logically, and to the
point. Avoid including material that's not necessary to understand
the story and make your case.
3. Grab your readers' attention with your opening sentence so
they will want to read further.
4. If your sending your letter via e-mail, give your piece a
subject in the subject box that is likely to get the editor's
attention. Remember, newspapers get hundreds of
letters every day! If you want to get published, an
attention-getting header will make your letter stand
out from the rest.
5. If your letter is in response to a story in the paper, get it
written and submitted as quickly as possible. Newspapers
don't print "old news."
6. Open your letter with the information you most want
your readers to learn; if an editor shortens your work,
he'll typically do so from the bottom up.
7. A letter to an editor can't be a 12-chapter book; restrict
yourself to a single point.
8. If you want to be clever, that's OK, but avoid rant,
sarcasm and personal attacks.
9. Don't make a pest of yourself; refrain from writing to the same
paper more than once every 4 to 6 months.
10 Don't submit your letter to more than one newspaper
at a time. If you get caught doing so, your name will
get on their /index cacorum/ and you'll not be getting
published for a long, long, long time.
11 After you've finished writing your letter, put it away for a
few hours, or overnight. Then go back and read it to see
what you can cut out, clarify, and polish.
12 Check grammar and spelling before you send your letter.
Poorly written pieces usually don't get published.
13 Be sure to give your name, address, and phone number so the
paper can contact you to verify that you are the letter's author.
14 First, last, and always — be concise! Shorter letters have
a better chance of being published than do lengthy ones.