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

600800 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.


Frank Lurz