Guidelines for making your letter to the editor a powerful advocacy tool! It's easier than you think!
Why should I write a letter to the editor?
Letters to the editor are an effective way to convey a positive image of alternate sexual practices such as SM, polyamory and swinging. Letters help to de-stigmatize negative social myths and misconceptions about these types of practices. These letters help achieve the advocacy goals of NCSF because they:
- Reach a large audience
- Are monitored regularly by elected officials
- Can introduce new information not addressed in a news article
- Foster an impression that there is widespread support for or opposition to an issue
We also suggest that you send copies of letters that you write to members of Congress to your local newspaper editors. These letters are often published to highlight a specific issue in the editorial section.
Tips on Writing Letters to the Editor
- Keep your letter short and on one subject. Newspapers typically have strict space limits for the editorial section and limited space. Keeping your letter short helps your chances of getting the letter published in its entirety, without important points being edited by the newspaper.
- Make sure your letter is legible and words are spelled correctly. Your letter may be simple and short, but make sure that spelling is correct and handwriting (if typing or WP in not used) is legible.
- Include your contact information. Newspapers sometimes call to verify a person's identity or address and will usually only publish letters with complete names and addresses. It is recommended that you also include a telephone number, if possible. Newspapers keep this information confidential and usually publish the person's name and city only.
- Reference the publication and article. Many newspapers only print letters referencing a specific article. Include the specifics such as "As a concerned resident of Baltimore, I am writing in reference to your article in the latest issue of (insert publication name), dated July 23rd titled "SM and the Law."
- Describe what you liked or didn't like about the article. NCSF sometimes includes a recommended response on important topics stating our position, which can be easily tailored to fit your personal use.
- Personalize your opinion with the news article. Use examples that reference your own experience. Examples are: "As someone who has experienced job discrimination because of my alternative sexual practices, I feel strongly that·", or "As a long-time member of the polyamory community, I think·".
- Frame yourself to establish common ground with the reader. We believe that it is important to frame yourself so readers relate to something you have in common with them. Frame yourself in terms of things like "parent, professional, involved member of my local community, proud U.S. citizen, former military officer, retired person, young person", or other ways that might enable you to relate to the readers as an individual they share something in common with. This also helps dispel the myth that alternative sexual expression is "wrong" or "abnormal."
- Reference positive facts. Check out our recommended sound bites for the SM, swing and polyamory communities.
- Stress the importance of national communities that promote safe and consensual sexual practices among adults through mentoring and education.
- Focus on the issues, not the sexual practices. Try to focus the letter on violence and discrimination. The media already sensationalizes sexual activities and portrays them negatively most of the time. Try not to give them, or the radical right, any more ammunition than they already have by discussing your own sexual practices.
- Point out that SM, swinging and polyamory is fun and enjoyable. The images and words depicted through the media about SM in particular are often negative and frightening to those who don't understand it. Words like "violence" are often associated with it wrongly, and the activities are frequently sensationalized and misrepresented. Discuss the caring relationships, intimacy, trust and communications aspects of these relationships whenever possible, stress that you like and enjoy it, and don't be afraid to mention that humor and laughter can also be part of these activities.
- Send actual letters or faxes when possible. An actual letter or fax is generally given more weight by a publication than something received only by e-mail. If possible, send an actual letter by mail or send a fax in addition to the e-mail, particularly on issues of particular importance to you.
- Send letters to community newspapers also. It's often much easier to get letters published in small publications than larger ones. If you're sending a response to a larger publication, copy the smaller newspapers as well.