- Keep it short (300 words is good, 150 is better, 50 best).
- Focus on your strongest argument. Get across one strong point.
- Expect to be edited for length, grammar and to fit the papers style.
- Keep it timely and topical, e.g., refer to a previously published article.
- Write while people are still talking about the issue.
- Keep it simple and clear.
- Localize the issue.
- Be specific. Give details and straight facts.
- Be positive and stress alternatives.
- Be courteous. Attack issues and policies, not people.
- Be accurate. One mistake damages your credibility.
- Sign your letter, e.g., Sangeeta Jones, President, Local 999, Health care workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees. Include a phone number if possible.
- In some cases, your local paper might run a longer article as a commentary opposite its editorial page.
Sample letter to the editor
In the months since the small Ontario town called Walkerton leapt onto our front pages, concern about public infrastructure has taken on a new urgency.
Across the country drinking water and waste water systems are in critical need of upgrading and repair. Walkerton is the starkest example of a network of services and systems that desperately needs to be not just patched, but rebuilt. Poorly funded public systems are in danger of failing other communities.
CUPE has been warning about the dangers of water downloading, deregulation and privatization since 1997. We represent the front line workers who deliver water across Canada. We have also been calling for renewed public funding to pay for these vital systems not so-called public private partnerships, which bring new risks.
There are those who claim the only way we can meet the urgent need for investment in water services is to turn to the private sector. But the experience in Canada and around the world has shown that water privatization is bad for public health, taxpayers and the environment.
As the community of Walkerton rebuilds and recovers, we can only hope that what flows from this tragedy will be a renewed commitment from all levels of government to strengthen and support public water systems.
Canadian Union of Public Employees
(include contact information)