Letter writing to the local and national press is an excellent way of using the existing media system for our own ends. We don't own it, but we can use it.
A letter in a national daily will be read by hundreds of thousands of people and a letter in a local paper will be read by tens of thousands of people. If you don't mind other people knowing your opinions, then it's definitely worth having a go.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LETTER WRITING
The mission of letter writing is to communicate, educate and convince.
By keeping the issue in front of the public day after day we let the people know that this is something they should have an opinion on, we give them the information which can help them to make sense of their world, and we aim to persuade them of the rightness of our ideas. Ultimately, if the only word the people read is the EU word, then we are lost.
Occasionally, I receive a copy of a letter from someone who complains that it was sent to a newspaper but never published. Sometimes, he or she may fancy that there is some "conspiracy" against their opinions being heard. Generally, however, they are wrong. On careful examination, it is often hardly surprising that the letter wasn't used. It can fall down in several places. Usually, it's far too long, makes too many points which are often unclear, is written in a style quite unsuited to the journal it was sent to, and may be too emotional.
However, like all things, the more you do it, the better you get. And if you do get published, then share your letters with others who are writing on the same subject. Don't be afraid to crib. If it works for them, it can work for you.
A well-crafted letter which conforms to the following basic rules will stand a good chance of being published. If you want to see your considered opinions in print, stick to the following:
Keep it Short
Your chances of having a letter published, and read, increase considerably if you keep it fairly short. Of course, there are exceptions, especially with some local newspapers, and in Scotland, The Herald usually carries quite lengthy and involved pieces. However, in general, a short letter is more likely to be published, more likely to be read, and consequently will be more effective.
Keep to the Point
Keep the letter to a maximum of two, and ideally, one point. Sometimes, there's a tendency to want to cram in as many points as you can. However, the most effective letters are those which leave the reader with a clear understanding of one important point, that he or she can remember and repeat. Otherwise, your message will drown in an ocean of words. If you really want to make other points, then there will be countless opportunities to do so in future letters. Don't shoot your load all at once.
Keep it Polite
No matter how angry you may be with a previous correspondent, or columnist, do not resort to personal abuse. You won't be published, and if you are, it won't reflect very well on you. You won't convince anybody by patronising, insulting or mocking them. Always seize the moral high ground on every issue. Never say anything in print that you wouldn't be prepared to say face to face to someone. Don't think you can hide behind newsprint. Remember that writing a letter to a newspaper is a public act and so whatever you say, be prepared to stand behind it.
Keep it Factual
If you make any kind of statement, ensure you can back it up with appropriate references if you are ever asked. If you quote someone then it can help to give the date and source. If you can quote from, and reference, any published works on the subject then that can add to the authority of your opinions.
It can help to list the reference after the letter, even if you don't include it in the body of the text. That will show the Letters Editor that you can back up what you say.
Keep it Informative
Tell the readers something they don't know. Use the opportunity to educate. This can be one of the most satisfying aspects of letter writing. There's a lot of stuff out there that ought to be brought.
People will sit up and take note when they read something different, interesting and unexpected. It may even provoke the reaction -- enthusiastic or indignant -- from which change emerges.
Spread useful knowledge: That is, knowledge which is easily understood, easily remembered and easily repeated.
SOME ADVICE ON STYLE
Keep it Objective and Avoid Emotionalism
Unless it is appropriate, avoid "I" as much as possible.
Also, emotive language, which is good for a speech or a press release, can sometimes look out of place in a published letter. Respect the meaning of words if you want to be taken seriously and don't engage in hyperbole.
Keep it Forthright
Don't be afraid to state something plainly. It is far better to write "It is ..." than to write "Surely, it is ..."
Similarly, don't write "In my opinion ..." Just give us your opinion! Also avoid long-winded phrases such as "Your readers may be interested to learn that ..." Just get to the point!
Keep it Relevant
Try to tie your point into a relevant local or national issue. Use examples that people can relate to.
Keep it Concise
Cut the waffle. Don't use 100 words when 10 will do. A good letter is like a carving. It needs to be pared down to its bare essentials.
Keep it Positive
Don't be a doom-monger. No matter how depressed you may be, don't spread negativity. Spread the solution, not the problem.