Letters the editor, also called LTEs, can be a powerful way to persuade legislators to pass legislation. If you’ve never written an LTE before, don’t worry. Writing LTEs is how many people take their first steps into action on issues they care about. Get started with the tips below.
LEARN ABOUT THE ISSUE
LD 1626 is a bill to restore tribal self-government to tribes in Maine and place them on similar and equal footing to the other 570 federally recognized tribes in 49 other states. Based on consensus recommendations from a bipartisan task force convened by the Maine Legislature, the legislation addresses long-standing issues with a land claims act passed in 1980 that governs the relationship between the state and the tribes in Maine. Learn more in our FAQ.
KEEP IT SHORT
Shorter letters are most effective and most newspapers limit LTEs to around 250 words. Get to your point quickly and put your best material up top. If your letter is edited it’s likely to be from the bottom up.
TELL YOUR STORY
This is absolutely the most important thing! Begin with a brief story about you or someone you know. People can argue with your positions, but they can’t argue with your experience. Describe how this issue has affected you, your family, your community, a coworker or a friend. Make it personal.
DON’T DELVE INTO POLICY
There isn’t enough room in 250 words to make a nuanced policy argument. When using facts and numbers, use only one or two, and choose the most powerful. A long string of facts and information is not an argument.
Most newspapers publish LTEs on their website and encourage writers to include links to sources for statistics, facts, and arguments included in the letter. Don’t make arguments that you can’t back up with facts.
USE POWERFUL LANGUAGE
Let your feelings show! Use powerful verbs and descriptive nouns. Write short, punchy sentences. Vary sentence length. This will help your letter stand out and make it more likely to be published.
MAKE A CALL TO ACTION
End your letter with a specific call to action to your local lawmakers or community members. Your LTE will only be effective if it gets others to take action!
LTE OR GUEST EDITORIAL?
Maine’s large daily newspapers also run guest editorials that vary in length from 600-800 words. Those with notable expertise on an issue or who are writing on behalf of a group are good candidates for guest editorials. Send an email query to the editorial page editor to gauge interest before submitting. Find that contact info in the media list linked below.
STILL NOT SURE WHERE TO START?
Check out our Talking Points on the bill to get you going. And take a look and some published LTEs by other Mainers published in the Portland Press Herald and Lewiston Sun Journal. If you’re thinking of submitting a guest editorial, take a look at this one from the Bangor Daily News as a good example.
CHECK AND SIGN YOUR LETTER
Do a final check for proper grammar and spelling. Write your full name (and title, if relevant) and include your address, phone number, and e-mail address. Newspapers won’t print anonymous letters, though in some cases they may withhold your name on request. They may also call you to confirm that you wrote the letter before they publish it.
SUBMIT YOUR LETTER
You should submit your letter to one paper only, so decide which is the best choice for you. If you live in a part of Maine where this is a “local” issue that might be your hometown paper; otherwise, it would likely be one of the larger dailies. Find a list of Maine’s papers and contact info here.
SHARE YOUR PUBLISHED LTE!
When your letter is published, share it widely on social media and via email with your friends, family, and networks–and us! We’ll highlight LTEs on our social media channels on this website. Send the link to us at WabanakiAlliance@gmail.com. And be sure to share it with your legislators as well. Visit our Contact Your Legislators guide for more info.