How to write a letter to the editor! - Alliance for Gambling Reform

How to write a letter to the editor!

As we continue to move forward in advocating for gambling reform, one of our ongoing key goals is to raise awareness as to the harms caused by gambling to individuals and the wider community.

In order to do that, we need to be creating and maintaining a presence within the community and letters to the editor are useful for not just creating awareness but also informing the editor about the issues the community cares about and wants to see more press on. This is particularly true of smaller or locally-based newspapers who we want to target!

Another reason why letters to the editor are important is that they are monitored carefully by politicians and their staff who assume that each letter to the editor represents many other people who share the same views as the letter-writer.

We want more people in our communities becoming aware of gambling-related harm and getting involved which will help to push politicians into acting!

Here are some tips:

  • Make sure to include your first name and locality
  • Be timely and topical
    • If you are responding to something that appeared in the newspaper, you need to send your letter to the editor that very day or, at the latest, the next day.
    • If you are not responding to something, but writing off your own bat, think about whether there have been any related issues in the paper or on the news recently. If you can tie your letter into a current issue you will have a better chance of getting it published.
  • Keep it brief
    • To give your letter the best chance of being published, keep it under 180 words – less than 150 is even better.
    • Remember that if the information isn’t essential, you don’t need it. You aren’t writing an essay, so you don’t need to cover every angle, rather, you are crafting a clever and concise couple of paragraphs which must inform and have impact.
  • Keep it simple
    • There simply isn’t space in a letter to the editor to cover more than one topic. If the issue is complex, select a couple of key points and write about those.
  • Tailor your letter
    • Think about who reads this newspaper and write specifically for them.
    • It would be helpful to read the Letters to the Editor section of the newspaper you are aiming at to get an idea of style and tone.
  • Demand attention!
    • Newspapers receive hundreds of letter to the editor every week. If your letter doesn’t grab the interest of the sub-editor in the first two lines, it is unlikely to be published. Be pithy, sharp, funny, even snide – just make sure you get their attention.
  • Advance the argument
    • Ask yourself whether you are saying something new, or simply re-hashing arguments that have been made before. A letter with nothing to add to a debate is unlikely to be published.
  • Back it up
    • Use facts and figures to back up your arguments! You can find useful facts by looking through recent articles: click here
  • Type your letter
    • Use a standard font and don’t use bold or italics.
    • Sending your letter by email is the most effective way of getting published.
  • Be logical
    • Your letter needs an opening, middle and end. Begin your letter by briefly stating the argument you are making. The middle part of your letter is where you can set out the points you want to make and provide any evidence to back up your case.
    • Close your letter by restating your position, making a pithy comment, or leaving the reader with something to ponder.
  • If appropriate: refer to the original article
    • If you are responding to an article or letter published in the newspaper, make sure you refer to it at the outset. The correct way to do this for articles is to cite the title of the article and the date on which it was published.
      • For example, the first sentence of your letter might look like: “The fact that Indigenous people continue to die 17 years younger than other Australians (‘New report highlights life expectancy gap’, 25/7) is simply unacceptable.”
  • Edit and proofread
    • Finish your letter and put it aside for an hour. Look at it with fresh eyes. Do the arguments make sense? Is it written logically? If you are worried about your expression, spelling or grammar, get a friend to look over it for you.
  • Follow the rules
    • All newspapers set out guidelines for what they want a letter to the editor to look like and be accompanied by.
    • Make sure you write ‘letter to the editor’ in the subject line.
    • Stick to the word limit that is required by the newspaper
  • And finally, don’t give up!
    • Newspapers receive far more letters than they have space to publish. Don’t give up if your letter doesn’t appear. Keep writing because persistence often pays off. Also, don’t forget to check out the online editions of the newspapers as sometimes letters which didn’t make it into the paper are published on the web.

Here are some examples:

Letter in response to an article about a policy matter:

"Dear Editor,
Failure by the NSW government to urgently respond to the report findings of the University of Sydney Gambling Treatment Clinic, which it commissioned, shows a total disregard for the well being of the community ('A tale of two reports: poker machine policy has state government in spin”, November 3).

The poker machine feature 'losses disguised as wins' is designed to further fleece the addicted person of their money. Shame on the NSW government for not prioritising what is in the best interest of the families tragically affected by poker machine addiction."


Letter about Woolworths:

"Pokie Scourge:

Woolies is generating 11.7 percent of its annual profits from its pokie business.

There are 13,000 pokies across 330 venues all around Australia and many are open 20 hours a day, seven days a week.  The community loses more than $12 billion to pokies every year.  Recently Woolworths forced Whittlesea, Victoria, council to spend tens of thousands to defend council's decision not to approve more pokies in the Commercial Hotel.  Woolworths cannot be a family-friendly business whilst reaping huge benefits from a product that is devastating Australian families every day.  Wookies needs to get out of the pokie business and stick to being the Fresh Food People.

- Joe Bloggs, Sydney."

Note: These facts and statistics came from the news article that this letter was written in response to.


Letter about AFL:

"I would just like to make comment on the latest media coverage on the AFL brawls and the attention it has drawn including a SWIFT RESOLUTION.

Shame we don't see the same commitment for...
Hungry Children, Domestic violence, Financial stress, Suicide, Job loss, Unpaid child support, Homelessness, Distress, Depression, Broken marriage, Fraud, Jail time, and the list goes on."


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