Imagine you are marooned on a tropical
island with nothing but a bottle, a piece of paper, and a pencil. In a
desperate move to express yourself, you might dash off a quick letter to
an editor that read, "Help! I’m marooned on an island somewhere in the
But your training and experience in
effective business writing prevent you from acting too rashly.
Before stuffing your hastily scrawled
message into the bottle and hurling it into the surf, you decide to sleep
on it – you’re not that hungry – and in the morning you take the
time to edit and proofread your text one final time. Now you have a
letter that makes you proud, one that not incidentally mentions your
According to Gregory Bownik, a freelance
writer who has taught a course entitled "Letters to the editor that get
published" at North Hennepin Community College, there are many benefits to
getting your letters to the editor published.
For example, you can use your letters to
promote your business; advance your career; advertise your ideas,
products, or service; defend your cause; gain credibility among your
peers; and collect clippings for your writing portfolio.
You can also use your letters, one might
add, to express your opinion about something that really matters to you,
share your expertise on a particular topic or issue, and correct an
inaccuracy or distortion in a published story.
Whatever your motivation, remember that
editors are suckers for certain types of letters. According to Bownik, who
claims a 80 percent success rate in getting his own letters published,
they look for five things: timely response, strong reaction and opinion,
unique point of view, clear and concise writing, and controversy.
Here are some tips, from Bownik and
others, on how to write those letters:
●If your letter deals with a topical
issue, send it right away.
●Lead off with a punchy or
●State your position clearly and
●Stay focused on your main points.
●If you are disagreeing with someone’s
analysis, offer your own solution.
●Be reasonable, rational, fair-minded,
helpful, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful – and, if it’s in your
●If you are responding to a published
article, identify it by title, date, and page number at the end of your
●Close with a strong or memorable
●Avoid whining, threats (veiled or
otherwise), name-calling ("slobberchops," "dunderhead," "pea brain" – you
get the idea), and malicious, untrue, or libelous statements.
With these thoughts in mind, you stuff
your letter into your bottle and let it fly, knowing the world will be
impressed not only with what you had to say but also with how well you