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Ten tips for writing a letter to the editor

The Echo Press was recently invited to speak to Krista Kirby's English class at Jefferson High School to share information about how to write a letter to the editor.

It was encouraging to see so many young people asking questions and showing a genuine interest in how they could share their viewpoints through the newspaper. We need more young people to write letters to the editor, expressing their concerns, frustrations, hopes and solutions. And these days, with young people so adept at technology, it's easier than ever for them to get involved in community debate. They can use their mobile devices, text, send an e-mail or post a letter directly on the newspaper website.

There are a few points to keep in mind when writing a letter to the editor. Here are 10 tips the newspaper shared with the JHS students:

1. Find out the rules. Each paper is different. Many have word limits.

2. Include a phone number with your letter, even if one isn't required by the newspaper you are writing to. If there is something in the letter that's unclear, the editor can get back to you.

3. Mail it or e-mail it to the right address or person. Clearly label it as a letter to the editor. Many papers prefer e-mails so the letter doesn't have to be re-typed.

4. Be brief. Get to your point quickly and stick to it. Don't ramble on into other topics. You'll lose a lot of readers along the way. Support your points with facts, research and opinions of others.

5. Don't be afraid to write creatively. A boring letter may not be published by some papers.

6. Don't go into attack mode. Take the high road. If you're writing about a political candidate, emphasize his or her strengths, not the opponent's flaws.

7. Spell-check the document and check over your grammar. A poorly written letter can muddy your point and readers won't take it as seriously.

8. Consider sending the letter out separately instead of en masse. Some papers won't print letters that are sent to hundreds of papers.

9. Don't write when you're red-hot angry and send off your letter without thinking it through. Take some time to collect your thoughts. Your best approach may not be anger.

10. Be brave. Take a stand. Don't be timid. You have a right to your opinion as much as anyone else.

Alexandria Echo Press