How to be an effective citizen (part 1)

Writing a letter to the editor

As you begin to get involved in the political process, you may wonder just how you can make a difference, especially if you do not have a lot of time. One easy way is to send a letter to the editor of your local paper. The editorial section is one of the most widely-read sections of the paper and a good way to get your opinions heard.

Start with a topic that you feel strongly about. Act quickly – the news cycle changes so rapidly that waiting just a few days can mean your letter is no longer relevant.

Know the word count constraints for your local paper. Generally keep your letter to 300 words or less. Even then, your letter may be edited, so put your most important point at the very beginning of your letter. Remember to include hour name, address, email address and phone number.

Keep your letter to one topic, 2 or 3 short paragraphs made up of 2 or 3 short sentences.

Express your opinions as strongly as you wish, but avoid swearing, name-calling and vitriolic attacks. The papers don’t print those kind of letters and you want your opinion to be out there in the public eye.

Papers get many letters. If your first letter does not get published, just keep on writing. You will get published and have your chance to weigh in on the public square of political discourse.