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Sample Letter to the Editor on the Consequences of Sequestration
Listen: HIV/AIDS in Uganda and St. Francis Health Care Services
Local Advocacy: Quick Tips for Writing a Letter to the Editor
- Keep it short. Letters should be concise, typically 150-200 words.
- Respond to a recent article or editorial. When you connect your opinion to a current topic of discussion, you increase your chances of being published. At the same time, you can also connect your opinion to newsworthy current affairs—in this case, the sequester.
- Write an original letter. Don't simply copy from a Bread alert. Your own voice is much more compelling than a canned message. Editors welcome opinions that contain personal insight and expression. Also, don't send the same letter to different news outlets. Each letter you submit should be unique.
- Express your opinion with conviction and passion, using strong but not strident language. Vitriolic opinions are easily dismissed.
- Name your representative and/or senators so that your letter, if published, reaches your members of Congress quickly. Congressional staffs monitor media hits for their offices daily. If your member of Congress is on a relevant committee related to your issue, be sure to include that in the letter.
- Mention you are a member of Bread for the World. There is power in numbers.
- If you email your letter, send your message as text only. Do not send attachments. Also, do not "cc:" your letter to Bread for the World or any other organization or individual.
- Always include a daytime telephone number and your physical address in case the newspaper wants to verify you as the author. If you submit a letter by regular mail or fax, don't forget to sign it. Many newspapers won't publish a letter without a signature.
- Include local stats and/or references to lend credibility to your letter. Consult with Bread for the World’s media relations team if you need assistance.
- Thank the editor. But be aware that if you submit the letter online, there is often only an automatic response. If you mail it, there will most likely be no response. Thank the editor anyway.
- Do not follow up about when your letter will be published. If the editor likes your letter, she or he will publish it. Follow-up calls are generally unproductive or considered a nuisance. If your letter is not published, do not give up. Continue to write letters to your editor.
Template for Letters
A good letter to the editor should be no more than three paragraphs, and should not exceed 250 words. Follow this general structure:
- Introduce the issue and why you are writing the letter. If you are responding to what someone else has written, directly address that article or letter.
Example: I totally disagree with John Doe’s assessment of hunger in our community ("Ignore the Hungry," Feb. 1, 2013).
Example: Hunger is pervasive in our country and around the world and could worsen with sequester cuts if lawmakers don’t act now. In our community, thousands suffer from hunger and poverty and are depending on key government programs to get back on their feet.
- State the facts using statistics, preferably local. If you do not have the statistics, cite a local story. Note: use statistics sparingly.
Example: St. Mary’s food pantry shows how churches are combatting hunger. But need has increased beyond the church’s capacity to help. In fact, churches and food pantries only supply 1 bag for every 24 bags needed to feed hungry people in our country.
- Close with a call to action or offer a solution to the problem. Then thank the editor.
Example: As a concerned reader and an active member of Bread for the World, I hope that Representative Jane Doe will help protect programs such as SNAP from further budget cuts. Thank you.
XXX children in [insert state or your town or city] live in households in which family members periodically go hungry or ration food. Their families depend on programs like WIC when times are tough. Yet these local families are some of the more than 600,000 mothers and children across the country who will lose their WIC benefits in the coming months unless Congress passes a law to replace the deep automatic cuts that began to take effect on March 1. Children won’t be the only people who suffer sequestration’s consequences—hungry and poor people around the world will be harmed. [Insert author’s name, article, and date to which you are responding] shed light on these issues. However, the urgency cannot be stressed enough.
As a citizen of [insert your city and state], every day I see the effects of hunger and poverty on our community. Churches and charities play a crucial role, but are in no way capable of compensating for devastating cuts to WIC, poverty-focused development assistance, and other anti-poverty programs. Our government has a responsibility to each of us, rich or poor, hungry or fed.
I strongly urge Rep./Sen. [insert your Congress member’s name] and fellow lawmakers to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction and replace damaging sequester cuts before more [Insert your state] families suffer.
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