TAKE ACTION & GET ATTENTION!
GUIDELINES FOR WRITING
A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
A letter to the editor may not have the glamour of splashier forms of
media exposure, but the letters pages are among the most widely
read sections of almost all newspapers.
Local weekly papers print many of the letters they receive. The dailies
cannot print every letter – the volume is just too great. But don't be
discouraged. Remember just one letter in the Telegraph Journal will
reach tens of thousands of people in one day. That's influence.
Make it brief. 100 to 150 words should be the maximum, fewer if possible.
Confine yourself to one subject. Make one point and make it clearly. You
undoubtedly have views about the issue you are raising, but in a letter to the
editor, you can make only one point effectively. To help you focus your letter,
summarize the point you are trying to make in a single phrase or sentence
before you begin writing the text of your letter. You should bring in supporting
evidence and arguments, but all should be in support of your main point.
Don't digress. Your main point can be specific or broad, e.g. "Closing
Belledune will drive people out of Northern NB" or "We need Coleson Cove to
ensure the reliability of the power grid". If possible, have someone else read
or edit your letter before sending it off.
Newspapers tend to favour letters from individuals over letters from
organizations. Avoid personal attacks or disparaging the motives of someone
you disagree with. Stick to the issue and the facts.
TAKE ACTION &
IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION
HON. BRIAN GALLANT
Premier of New Brunswick
Phone: (506) 453-2144, Fax: (506) 453-7407,
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailing Address: Chancery Place, P. O. Box 6000,
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1
Contact info for you MLA can be found at www.gnb.ca
P.O. Box 2350,
210 Crown Street
Saint John, NB
The Daily Gleaner
P.O. Box 3370,
984 Prospect Street
Times & Transcript
939 Main Street,
P.O. Box 1001
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
138 rue Neill Street | Fredericton, NB E3A2Z6 | 506-455-0037
1-877-437-0037 | email@example.com | www.ibew37.com
to elected officials
and the media
/ibew37 @ibew37 /ibew37
TAKE ACTION &
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER
OF A PERSONAL LETTER
Campaigns can be won when dozens or hundreds of people telephone,
write letters, and send e-mails to elected officials and the media.
Petitions and postcards are easier, but politicians recognize this – so you
need thousands of names on a petition, or thousands of postcards to make
an impact. A well-placed and well-written personal letter can be very effective.
WRITING EFFECTIVE LETTERS TO POLITICIANS
One of the biggest hurdles in effective letter writing is the fear that you have
to be an expert to discuss an issue. Usually, the politician will likely know less
about the issue than you do. Letters are used to measure constituents' feelings
and can serve as a basis for action. The successful letter applies the three R's:
be RIGHT, REASONABLE, and REPETITIVE.
Rule 1: State your position clearly and identify a specific request. The most
common weakness in letters is being unclear about what you want.
Rule 2: Ask specific, leading questions that require a response. The strategy
is not just to let them know your opinion, but to make them work on your
behalf, and keep working until they resolve the issue.
Rule 3: Make it clear you expect an answer.
Rule 4: Send copies to other politicians. Copies or individually addressed
letters will expand your effectiveness with little extra work. After all, you wrote
the letter, so spread your impact far and wide.
Rule 5: Keep a copy.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT FOR AN ANSWER?
Response 1: Zero. The politician has ignored your questions and said
Response 2: Affirmative, agreeing with your stance. Seldom will you
hear this. This is more likely the answer from the opposition members
or a supportive backbencher. If they're genuinely on your side, they'll
appreciate the moral support.
Response 3: Newspeak. This is the “current” truth or policy,
which is a selection of the facts in support of their position. The
answer may also take the tactic of trying to overwhelm you with
NOW, YOU'VE RECEIVED YOUR RESPONSE. WHAT NEXT?
Go back to your first letter and begin a second one. It is this follow-up letter that will be
enough to make them take you seriously. This time they'll know they can't just brush you
off as they may have attempted in the first letter.
Tactic 1: Ask again any questions the politician didn't answer or didn't answer fully.
Tactic 2: Point out any inconsistencies between their response and others you have
received, or with their government's public statements.
Tactic 3: Point out any weakness in their arguments.
Tactic 4: Restate your position and make it clear that you expect a response.
LETTER-WRITING IS LIKE A SLOW GAME OF PING PONG.
IT'S THE SECOND AND THIRD LETTERS THAT START SCORING.
Sending letters to the Opposition Leaders and critics can often be useful. Sometimes
they'll warm up and go after the Ministers in the Legislature. Sending to Ministers not
directly responsible for the issue you are concerned about is a sign to the Government
that everyone is being drawn in and they must take a stand.
In addition to the Premier and Minister responsible, don't forget to write to your own MLA
(contact info at www.gnb.ca). A phone call or two on any issue tells them they've got an
issue they must deal with. Fifteen letters and they'll know they've got a hot issue getting
out of control.
You'll likely get a personal reply and it could
sound very informed. Once you've got your
MLA on the run, keep him or her there.
The more letters, phone calls, and faxes a
politician receives, the more seriously they
will take them. Above all, encourage
citizens outside your group to write letters
of their own.
Remember, the pen is still
mightier than the sword.
Adapted from Connexions Online Digest: “The Write Stuff”