A letter to the editor is the media coverage known as “people speak.” It is an opportunity for a reader to correct and/or comment on an article or statement that recently appeared in the publication. “Letters to the editor” is one of the most widely read sections in any publication. However, competition for the limited space available is very stiff. But a well-written, thoughtful letter to the editor greatly increases its chances of being selected for publication.

A letter to the editor is a very effective communication tool. To substantially increase your chances of being published, there are a few basic rules to follow:

1. If possible, write about something you recently read in the publication. These letters are a response and they must be relevant. No matter how well-written your letter, if it doesn’t pertain to an earlier letter, story or editorial item, it has no relevance and may be rejected on that basis.

2. Make it short and neat. Keep the length to under 300 words and always type it and use double spaces. Handwritten letters do not get read. Be sure to include the author’s address and phone number because they will likely be called to verify the letter came from them.

3. Know the classic “letter” format. The first paragraph refers to the article and states your reaction to it. The second paragraph expounds on the article and why you agree or disagree. This is where you can inject anecdotes, quotes, statistics and any other information that supports your point. The third paragraph is for wrap-up and to restate your major point.

4. Finally, make sure you know the correct name and spelling of the editor to whom your letter should be sent. Editors like to be recognized, and accurately. A misspelled word or typographical error can sometimes cut your chances of being read.