Letters to the editor - Important tips
From All-Creatures.org Animal Rights Activism Articles Archive

Letters to the Editor: Important Tips
May 2009

When you write letters to the editors of newspapers, instead of writing to just one person, you reach thousands.

Learn the rules and requirements for each specific newspaper, magazine, publication or website you are contacting.

Write on good news, as well as bad. Thank the paper for its coverage of, for example, an anti-fur protest or for running profiles of animals available for adoption at shelters.

Be brief! Sometimes one short, pithy paragraph is enough. Try to stay under 300 words. Editors are less likely to print long letters.

Make sure you include your contact information in your letter. Some newspapers verify authorship before printing letters.

Look for opportunities to write op-ed pieces for local papers. These are longer articles of about 500-800 words that summarize an issue, develop an argument, and/or propose a solution.

You can also contact television and radio stations to protest glorification of animal abuse or to compliment them on a program well done.

Increase your credibility by mentioning anything that makes you especially qualified to write on a topic: For instance, "As a nutritionist, I know a veggie diet is healthy," or, "as a mother," or, "as a former fur-wearer," or, "as a cancer survivor," etc.

Try to tell readers something they're not likely to know—such as how chickens are raised to produce eggs—and encourage them to take action (such as to stop buying eggs).

Avoid speciesist language. Instead of referring to an animal with an inanimate pronoun like "it" or "which", use "she" or "he" or "them."

Avoid euphemisms ("negative reinforcement" or "culling the herd"); say what you really mean ("painful electric shocks" or "slaughtering deer").

Don't give lip service to anti-animal arguments. Speak affirmatively.
EXAMPLE: "It's not true vegetarians are weaklings."
: "Vegetarians are healthier and slimmer and live years longer than flesh-eaters."

Avoid self-righteous language and exaggeration. Readers may dismiss arguments if they feel preached to or if the author sounds hysterical.
: "Only a heartless sadist could continue to eat animals when any fool knows their lives are snuffed out in screaming agony for the satisfaction of people who can't be bothered to take a moral stand."
BETTER: "Most compassionate people would stop eating meat if they saw how miserable the animals are."

Don't assume your audience knows the issues.
"Don't support the cruel veal industry."
"Calves factory-farmed for veal are tethered in small stalls and kept in complete darkness. Their mothers also endure sad fates, starting with the loss of their infants a few days after birth."

Inclusive language helps your audience identify with you.
EXAMPLE "Eating meat is bad for your health."
BETTER "We know eating meat is bad for our health."

Use positive suggestions rather than negative commands.
EXAMPLE "Don't go to the circus."
"Let's take our families to non-animal circuses."

Personalize your writing with anecdotes and visual images.
"Leg hold traps can trap an animal by the face, leg, or stomach."
BETTER "Have you ever seen a yearling fox with her face caught in a leg hold trap? I have, which is how I know traps tear into animals' faces, legs, or stomachs."

Criticize the cruelty, not the newspaper.
"There is no excuse for your article promoting the circus."
BETTER "There is no excuse for the abuse that goes on in the circus."

Return to: Campaigning
Return to: Animal Rights Activism
Return to: Animal Rights Activist Strategies