Friday, October 12, 2007

Letters to the Editor: One Means of Exercising our Citizenship

FreeFoto.comThe information provided here, I am sure, is generally well-known by most, but my target audience for this post is moreso for a younger school-age audience, who I encourage to start writing letters to the editor and letting their voice be heard on whatever issue they choose. Maybe many of them have never written a Letter to the Editor before or may have only done so as a school assignment for an English or Social Studies class.

Letters to the Editor are just one of several ways where, via the medium of a free press and our constitutional right to freedom of speech, we exercise our citizenship. We let our voices be heard on whatever issue that concerns or has affected us. We all want to see our country become a better place but it cannot become so unless we, the citizens, do our part to make it so: to participate in the public sphere in whatever way we can.

Letter to the Editor Guides

Adhere to Maximum Word Limits: It is not only you who wants to be heard. Many others want to be heard too and a newspaper has so much space it can offer. If you do not adhere to word limits, the Editor may of course cut your letter or may choose not to publish it at all. Having a tight restriction on how much you can say also forces the writer to become more skillful, more concise.

Watch Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation: One way of getting good notice for your letter is to already have it well-written. Be kind to the editorial personnel who already have a lot to do. Submitting a well-written letter means less corrections having to be made to your letter and so this means less tedium for the editorial personnel. A well-written letter also shows a level of respect for yourself and what you are doing and also conveys respect to the editorial staff: respect for all the work they have to do. Taking your time to proofread your letter before submission thus not only conveys respect but will earn you respect as a writer as well.

Present a Cogent Argument: For the most part, many letters are persuasive pieces. However, you would be more successful at persuading anyone if your postion, at the core, is well-reasoned.

Appeal to Reason as well as to Emotion: While reason should be the foundation for any argument, you should remember too that as humans, we also have an emotional side, where we are stirred by love, fear, anger, guilt, pity etc. Also Make use of imagery and metaphor to paint a clear picture of what you are trying to say

A Letter to the Editor is not a Personal Letter: This is not a personal letter to the editor at the newspaper. The editor is only to be your specific audience in so much as you may wish e.g. to point out some error of fact that was published previously, but apart from that the newspaper serves just as the medium by which you get out what you have to say to a wider audience.

Make Recommendations: While for the most part people seem to write letters to the editor to complain about something or someone, it should be noted that it may also be a good idea to include some suggestions to improve the situation as well. In life we all can complain or look on and see what is wrong with some situation or the other but we do a lot more when we can offer well-thought out and usable recommendations as to how to make something better.

Letters to the Editor for the Trinidad and Tobago Express should be sent to:

Letters to the Editor for the Trinidad Guardian should be sent to:

The Trinidad and Tobago Newsday has an online submission form for Letters to the Editor at URL:

Write On to Help Make Things Right!

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