Bill Taverner

What Editors Look for in Letters to the Editor

Have you ever read the letters to the editor in a newspaper or a magazine and wondered what makes some letters stand out enough to get published? As simple as they may seem, these letters hold a lot of power in sparking community conversations and sharing diverse viewpoints. 

As the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Sexuality Education, I understand the importance of advocating for quality sex education. One effective way to make your voice heard is through writing letters to the editor. Here’s what editors generally look for when they decide which letters to publish.

Relevance to Recent Topics

Editors prioritize letters that are relevant to topics recently covered in their publication. They look for responses that can provide additional information, offer a new perspective, or raise important questions about articles or issues featured in recent issues. If you’re thinking of writing a letter, make sure it ties back to something that was recently discussed in the publication. This connection helps keep the conversation timely and engaging for other readers.

Clarity and Conciseness

A clear and concise letter is more likely to catch an editor’s eye. Newspapers and magazines often have limited space, so editors appreciate letters that get straight to the point. Before sending your letter, make sure to proofread it. Check if you can say the same thing with fewer words. A well-written letter that efficiently communicates its message stands a good chance of being published.

Unique Insights or Personal Stories

Editors often look for letters that offer a unique insight or personal story related to the topic. If your letter can add a new dimension to the discussion—perhaps by introducing a personal experience or an overlooked perspective—it has a better chance of making it to print. These kinds of contributions enrich the conversation and provide readers with a broader understanding of the issue.

Politeness and Respectfulness

While it’s completely fine to disagree with something that was published, editors look for letters that do so respectfully. Letters that contain personal attacks, offensive language, or disrespectful comments are less likely to be chosen for publication. Constructive criticism and polite disagreement are encouraged as they foster a healthy dialogue.


Accuracy is key in letters to the editor. Make sure your facts are correct and your arguments are sound. Editors will fact-check claims that seem questionable, and incorrect information is a quick way to get your letter dismissed. If you’re citing data or studies, it helps to mention your sources, which adds credibility to your letter.

Diversity of Voices

Editors strive to present a range of voices and opinions in their letters section. If you feel that your viewpoint is underrepresented in the media, writing a letter can be a great way to add diversity to the discussion. Editors appreciate letters that help provide a balanced view of issues, showcasing a variety of opinions from different segments of the community.

Community Impact

Letters that highlight issues affecting the local community or propose solutions to local problems are highly valued. Editors like letters that engage with the community and can potentially lead to positive changes or more in-depth coverage of local issues.

Final Tips

To increase your chances of getting published, keep your letter timely, relevant, and respectful. Focus on making a clear point and back it up with solid reasoning or personal experience. Once you’ve written your letter, give it a good proofread to eliminate any errors and tighten up your arguments. Remember, a good letter can not only express your thoughts but also spark meaningful discussions among readers.

Writing a letter to the editor is a powerful way to participate in public discourse. By following these guidelines, you can write effective letters that stand a good chance of catching an editor’s attention and contributing to important conversations in your community.