Tips for Writing a Letter to the Editor
Tips for Writing a Letter to the Editor
- Write clearly and concisely.
- Follow the limitations provided by the paper regarding the number of words and other guidelines usually included on the editorial page or letters-to-the-editor page.
- If you are responding to an editorial, indicate the title of the piece, the date it ran, and if you agree or disagree. Be timely; try to respond within two or three days of the article's publication.
- Stick to a single issue and include mention of it in your first paragraph.
- Don't be afraid to let passion show through.
- Use facts and figures to back up your position.
- Proofread your letter carefully for errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.
- Read your letter to a friend for objective input.
- Try to view the letter from the reader's perspective. Will the arguments make sense to someone without a special background on this issue? Did you use technical terms not familiar to the average reader?
- Always include your name, address, day-time phone number and signature. The papers will not publish this information, but will use it to verify that you wrote the letter.
- Most important - WRITE! Do not worry about making your letter perfect. Just give it your best effort and send it off.
- Don't be discouraged if your letter isn't published. The editor may have received more responses on that issue than he/she feels the paper can handle. Try again at a later date.
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* Learn about the Campaign for Mental Health Recovery sponsored by SAMHSA and the U.S. Ad Council
Here is a sample letter:
Dear Representative Smith:
I am writing to you today to urge you to listen to the voice of consumers and families with regard to how the state should use limited mental health dollars. In the past, decisions have been made that were based on what is in the best interest of the “system”, rather than on what is in the best interest of those with Serious and Persistent Mental Illness and the people who care about them.
This issue is very important to me and my family because…. [Please include a SHORT summary about how you and your family have been impacted by mental illness. Here is an example: I am living proof that treatment and support for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness work. Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I lost my job and my husband. I was unable to leave my house for days at a time. Treatment and medication have enabled me to go back to school to complement my degree program and just recently, I was hired as a job coach. I am now able to contribute to the tax base, and I am giving back to my community by helping others.]
I urge you to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio’s (NAMI Ohio) call to move the responsibility for Mental Health Medicaid to the state level, where it belongs. The state is currently responsible for physical health Medicaid, and to treat mental health differently is discriminatory.
In addition, please support NAMI Ohio’s recommended law change to direct local communities to use their state and local mental health dollars to provide basic services (ex. food, shelter, medication) to adults and children with serious and persistent mental illness. If there are any remaining funds, they can be used for the broader population of individuals with mental health disorders and for a wider array of services, but NOT UNTIL the basic needs of the sickest of the sick are met. We believe that this will prevent people from falling through the cracks, and unnecessarily winding up in jails, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, on the street, or worse, in the morgue.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I look forward to hearing your position on these issues.
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