Hints for when writing letters to newspapers.
- Use email, as this drastically improves the odds of being selected, as sub-editors do not like retyping your letter, but may like to edit it. Do not use attachments, as these are specifically excluded, in any case. They are not convenient to edit.
- Write and send your letter during the first half of the morning, to increase the odds of inclusion in the following day’s edition while the issue is still current.
- Try to respond to an identified news or opinion item in that day’s or a very recent edition of the newspaper to which you are writing. [eg …as Ross Fitzgerald argues, (“Battle-hardened Beasley prepares to make his move”, July 10) the leader of the Opposition…]
- Begin with a brief paragraph of perhaps two sentences, in which you try to attract attention with a dramatic/provocative/cryptic statement, which compels the reader to pursue the letter and/or clearly indicates the subject matter and opinion to follow.
- Elaborate on the theme in the second paragraph. Supply some evidence in the form of brief examples, incidents, quotes, statistics etc. These may eventually be edited out, but are worth including.
- Make your final paragraph a call to action, a question, a warning, a dire prediction, or an attribution of responsibility etc. Make sure not to leave the subject up in the air. This gives your letter a sense of assurance and balances your claims in the first paragraph.
- Write often and to several newspapers. This increases your chances of publication, but do not send the identical letter to several papers – unless you are a well known identity. They may blackball you. On local issues, suburban newspapers offer a one in two chance of publication within three weeks, so few letters do they tend to get.
- Letters to tabloids (eg Herald Sun) should be shorter than those to broadsheets (eg The Age), and in general no more than 120 words.
- Keep the letters simple, especially regarding length of sentences. Use short sentences for action, opinion or being provocative. Use longer sentences for explanation or description. The “rule of threes” and devices such as alliteration, which work well in poetry, rhetoric and the spoken word, are also effective in brief letters. [eg The Premier has exhausted our pockets, our patience and our preparedness to ….]
- Check the letter for mistakes and whether it makes sense before sending it. Make whatever corrections are needed. Finish with your name and suburb, and State if writing to TheAustralian. Supply your address and phone number in brackets, so indicating that these are not for publication.