How to Write a Letter to the Editor
One of the biggest obstacles to homeschool reform is a lack of awareness in the general public. Most people don’t know how little oversight of homeschooling exists in most states. At the same time, many are unaware that homeschooling can be used to conceal child abuse, or that some homeschooled children are educationally neglected. Letters to the editor of your local paper are a good way to draw attention to homeschooling-related issues, especially when homeschooling is in the news or a bill is up for debate in your state’s legislature. Here are some basic guidelines.
- Know your paper’s word limit. Papers generally have a 250-300 word limit for letters. Be sure to check your paper’s limit, and aim write even fewer words than the limit. The best letter in the world won’t get printed if it’s too long, and even at the longer end of your word limit the paper may edit your remarks to make them fit. If no word limit is listed, it’s still good to stick to 250 words or fewer.
- Create a headline for your letter. If you don’t write your headline, the paper will choose one for you that may not capture your intent.
- Write the most important point first. You want to catch readers’ attention and draw them in. Don’t leave them wondering where you’re going. You might consider opening with a reaction to an article, current event, or another letter.
- “I was thrilled to see that Representative Smith sponsored…”
- “The research cited in (Name of Article, date published) has limitations that aren’t fully addressed….”
- Stick to one issue. Your letter will have a bigger impact if you focus on a single issue in homeschooling. For example, if a homeschool sports access bill is being debated, your letter should stick to the reasons why the bill benefits homeschool kids. Your state may also need better assessment or subject requirements, but save those topics for another letter.
- Be concise. A letter to the editor is not a position paper. People are busy and you want to get to the point quickly, if you don’t they may skip over your letter. If you know you tend to be wordy, it may be helpful to have someone else proofread your letter and cut out the unnecessary bits.
- Cite statistics if relevant. You can find statistics in our research section or contact us to find out what is available. Our homeschool fast facts may also help you in this area.
- Explain why people should care. People want to feel connected to an issue and to know why it matters. Local stories are particularly powerful if you know of any.
- Close with a call to action. This could be a call to pass a specific bill, a call for more oversight of homeschooling, or a request for readers to contact their elected officials about a bill or issue.
- Sign your letter. Include your name, address, and telephone number(s). Your personal contact information will remain private, but the paper may want to contact you to verify who you are and that you wrote the letter. Anonymous letters are not considered credible and likely will not be published.
- Follow up with the paper to make sure your letter was received. A follow up call increases the likelihood that your letter will be published, and you can find out a more exact timeline for publishing.
- Don’t be discouraged if your first letter doesn’t make it to print. Papers often receive more letters than they can reasonably print. You might just have to keep trying!
- Send the letter to as many papers in your distribution area as possible. Be sure to follow all the submission guidelines on the website or in those papers.
If your letter to the editor is published, please let us know! We enjoy hearing from our supporters and may want to share your letter to the editor on our social media.