Write a Letter to the Editor

Letters to the editor may criticize or correct a piece in the newspaper, add critical information a writer omitted or to flesh out an angle that a reporter only touched on briefly. Letters can also praise a reporter or editorial writer for being on target and provide a supporting point. Letters can also be used to comment on particular issues in the community that haven’t yet been discussed in the newspaper.

Letters to the editor are often selected based on length, quality, and relevance to current issues in the community. Most newspapers have word count limits for letters to the editor of around 250 words; make sure to check what your newspaper’s guidelines are before you start writing.

Sample Letter to the Editor: General

Play is all but absent in our children’s over-programmed lives, as Marco della Cava notes in his story (“Calendar Is Blank on May 22,” 5/16/06). Free time needs to come back into our kids’ lives, and it needs to happen now.

There is a nationwide scarcity of play, and we are beginning to see a stark difference between children who play and children who don’t.

Kids who play are healthier. Kids who play are less likely to be obese and develop obesity-related health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Kids who play do better in school. Kids who play develop the cognitive skills that are positively linked to learning and academic performance.

Kids who play, play well as adults. Kids who play build their confidence and lear n the social skills that help them become happy, well-adjusted adults.

I recently participated in a build sponsored by KaBOOM! to help ensure that there is a playground within walking distance of every child in America. Through efforts like this, along with a team of dedicated adults willing to advocate for play in as many ways possible, we can make play a part of every child’s life. It is our obligation to ensure that the next generation is as healthy as it can be, mentally and physically, and we can start by prioritizing play.

Sincerely,
Jane Doe
Anytown, USA

Sample Letter to the Editor: Childhood Health

Dear Editor,

With childhood health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease on the rise, everybody is quick to point fingers at possible causes. But one cause is often overlooked.

There is a nationwide scarcity of play, and we are beginning to see a stark difference between children who play and children who don’t.

People are often surprised to learn that increasing the amount of time children spend in active play – whether it’s in organized sports or on a playground - can help prevent many health problems. As community leaders increase play opportunities in their neighborhoods and schools, these leaders will not only help prevent many of their community’s most pressing problems, but also set their children up for success.

I recently participated in a build sponsored by KaBOOM! to help ensure that there is a playground within walking distance of every child in America.

OR

(I recently participated in a play project [NAME PROJECT e.g. Play Day] supported by KaBOOM!)

Through efforts like this, along with a team of dedicated adults willing to advocate for play in as many ways possible through the KaBOOM! Playmaker Network, we can make play a part of every child’s life.

It is our obligation to ensure that the next generation is as healthy as it can be, mentally and physically, and we can start by prioritizing play.

Sincerely,
Jane Doe
Anytown, USA

Sample Letter to the Editor: Playful City USA

Dear Editor,

With the rise of childhood obesity, youth violence, and problems with school performance occurring in our community, we must as parents, educators and leaders take action.

I recently encountered KaBOOM!, a national non-profit that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. As part of their efforts to promote the importance of play, they have a national recognition program, Playful City USA, to help communities like ours create an infrastructure for more time and space for play.

Beyond the recognition awards that each Playful City USA community receives, including highway signs and plaques, communities are highlighted in national publications, serve as national role models paving the way for play for all children in America and become national advisors on play, providing counsel to KaBOOM! as it spends its time and resources influencing federal policy.

As an advocate for play in this community, I firmly believe that ________ (city) should be a part of this national network to improve the overall health and well being of our children. A meeting for interested community members will be held on ________ (date) at ___________ (location).

For additional information on Playful City USA, please visit www.playfulcityusa.org.

Sincerely,
Jane Doe
Anytown, USA

Sample Letter to the Editor: Promoting Recess

Dear Editor,

Keeping recess as part of our children’s daily school activities is not a luxury, but a critical part of their fundamental development.

Unstructured, unplanned, spontaneous, and self-motivated play is on the decline as children spend less and less time outside at parks and playgrounds and have their recess time shortened or removed from our school curriculums.

We know that children who play are healthier and suffer fewer obesity and obesity-related health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. We also value the fact that children who play do better in school and develop cognitive skills that are positively linked to learning and academic performance. During unstructured play, children also learn the social skills that help them become happy and well-adjusted adults. (Stanford School of Medicine study, 2007)

We wish to raise this community’s children to become healthy, happy, and successful adults – let’s start by giving them the time and space to play.

Sincerely,
Jane Doe
Anytown, USA

Sample Letter to the Editor: Supporting Local Legislation on Play

Dear Editor,

As a parent and resident of [community], I am deeply concerned that fewer kids are regularly spending time at a park or playground. Play is an old-fashioned solution to many modern problems. The disturbing rise in childhood obesity, youth violence, and problems with school performance can all be addressed through play. Kids who play are healthier, do better in school, and become higher-functioning adults by developing social and problem-solving skills. In short, play is a crucial factor in the overall well-being of children.

Yet recess is disappearing from our schools, and playspaces are missing from community and neighborhood development plans. Unstructured play is not as valued as it once was. As a result, children aren’t reaping the many health and social benefits that come with play, which in turn creates problems within our community.

[Name of bill] will not do all that we need to do to put play back into our children’s lives, but it’s a great first step. It is vital that our community defend and support access to play for children in [insert state or community] and the first step in doing so is to contact [name of policy maker] to let him/her know that we support this bill.

This legislation reinforces that our community’s children must be a priority.

Sincerely,
Jane Doe
Anytown, USA

Tips

When writing your letter, keep the following in mind:

  • Make it timely. Monitor the newspaper every day. After you identify a story, editorial or community issue that needs a response, draft and submit your letter as soon as possible.

  • Focus. Develop and support one argument thoroughly. Don’t try to cover several points more generally. By trying to say everything, you may end up saying nothing.

  • Support. Your opinion needs to be supported by compelling facts (preferably ones you can attribute to a particular study). This will give your piece some substance.

  • Speak plainly. Write in plain English, without using too many large words. Use shorter sentences to get your point across in as clear a fashion as possible.

  • Follow the rules. All newspapers have guidelines for letter submissions that generally include a maximum word count, exclusivity rules, and instructions for how to submit the piece. You can often find the rules for submission on the newspaper’s website or on the letters page of the physical paper, but if not, contact the editor directly to determine the publication’s specific rules. No matter how well-written your submission is, if it doesn’t follow the rules it likely will not get printed.

  • Submit and follow-up. Submit your piece, following the newspaper’s instructions for doing so. If it is accepted, congratulate yourself, make copies of the piece when printed and make sure that key individuals and organizations get a copy in case they miss the first printing! Be sure to send a copy to the KaBOOM! Playmaker Network!

Checklist

Before you submit an letter, check to make sure:

  • You’re under the newspaper’s word limit (usually 200-250 words).
  • You have one main argument, not multiple arguments.
  • A reader will understand your main point after reading the first paragraph.
  • You have included a few carefully chosen facts, statistics and stories.
  • You have not used any jargon or acronyms.
  • Your letter can be understood by an average adult.
  • Your letter contains no spelling or grammatical errors.
  • You have included whatever contact information the newspaper requires be submitted with the letter.

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"Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor."
– Stuart Brown, MD, contemporary American psychiatrist