Information from: National Public Health Week/All of Us Research Program Outreach Toolkit
How to write a Letter to the Editor
Letters to the editor are submitted to publications, media outlets and online platforms. They are usually written by regular readers, expressing their personal opinions. They are shorter than op-eds and must follow that media outlet’s guidelines.
Here are a few places to consider sharing your letter to the editor:
1. National newspapers, magazines or online media outlets.
2. Your state’s largest newspaper.
3. Local newspapers.
You can submit a letter to the editor at any time – for NPHW, you’ll likely want to send your letter a couple of weeks before April 6. Start by reviewing the publication’s guidelines online. For larger publications, you may be required to submit your letter to the editor through an online form or email it. Locally, call the newspaper and ask how you should submit your letter to the editor and what the guidelines are.
Follow up with an email or phone call about a week after submitting your letter to the editor. Ask if it’s being considered or if you can answer any questions. If your letter is rejected, start the process over with the next media outlet.
Similar to an op-ed, the beginning of your letter to the editor needs to “hook” the reader so they will want to keep reading. Letters to the editor are shorter. You won’t have as much space to tell your story. Get to the point quickly. State what the issue is and/or what you are concerned about. Keep sentences short. Don’t fall into academic speak.
Explain how this particular issue affects your community. Make it human. Use a strong voice. Don’t say “I think” or “I believe” — declare your opinions.
Your letter should have a strong ending. Circle back to the main point in your opening paragraph and then end with a hard-hitting statement or a “call to action.” A call to action tells readers what you want them to do, such as call their local, state or congressional representative.
The following examples from the Utah Affiliate show how to write letters to the editor on a particular public health issue. Use them as guides. To write a letter to the editor about NPHW, follow the template below.
Examples of letters to the editor:
National Public Health Week Letter to the Editor Template
Headline: Public Health Protects and Improves Our Community
For 25 years, National Public Health Week has recognized the contributions of public health and highlighted issues that are important to improving our nation’s health. This year, National Public Health Week will be celebrated April 6–12.
Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where you live, learn, work and play. While doctors and nurses treat people when they get sick, public health professionals try to prevent you and your neighbors from getting sick or injured in the first place. They work to eliminate the disparities we see in our communities.
[Add a paragraph here showing examples in your own community or highlighting public health issues you want to call attention to. Or, you can use the two more general paragraphs below.] For example:
In our own state/city/community, we have been working on/advocating to lawmakers …
We know eliminating health disparities starts with prevention. But because disparities remain, we’re working with the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program to get more of our community involved in medical research. By addressing disparities both upstream and downstream, we know the U.S. can become the healthiest nation.
During NPHW, join [YOUR AFFILIATE HERE] as we celebrate the power of public health. You can learn more at www.nphw.org/nphw-2020, and learn more about the All of Us Research Program at www.allofus.nih.gov.