Make it a point to read the Daily Texan, Austin
American-Statesman and other media. Keep on top of what's in the paper, and
use it as an excuse to make your voice heard. For example, anytime an
animal-related issue is in the paper, Students Against Cruelty to Animals floods
the paper with letters to the editor. Often, they have three or four printed in
a single issue.
Some people dismiss letter writing as a waste of time. The
mentality is that it is not "revolutionary" or "radical" enough. Letter writing
should be looked at as a campaign tactic. A revolution may not come through
writing letters alone, but it won't come through direct action alone, either.
For every letter you have published in the paper, you keep your issue at the
front of people's minds. It makes people realize your group is out there
fighting. Also, every publication is kind of a small victory, and it keeps
momentum going in the group. The bottom line is that if you are willing to
organize a protest, or get arrested, or fight the cops, you can write a stinkin'
letter once in a while.
Here are some tips for writing letters to the editor:
Be brief! Sometimes one short paragraph is enough. Firing
Lines for the Daily Texan
have to be under 250 words, but try to make
it even shorter: there's a better chance it will get in, and better chance
people will get a clear message from it. Include your name, major,
classification, and your student organization (if you want to make it look
more formal). Guidelines for firing lines are on the Daily Texan
page. Send Firing Lines to email@example.com
Make the first sentence catchy, so it will get reader's
Use the writing style of journalists: Avoid flowery language,
write in clear and concise fashion, and keep paragraphs to no more than two or
Stick to one issue. Most people can't address the downfall of
modern civilization in 250 words.
The letter should be timely. Send it the day of, if possible.
Your chances of getting published increase if you can tie it
into a news event or anniversary. Editors like pieces with a "news
Try to tell readers something they aren't likely to know.
Whenever possible, tell something that readers can do.
Keep personal attacks out of letters. You'll lose
Most papers won't accept letters on behalf of a group. Have an
individual sign it (group affiliation is OK, though).
Most newspapers have a limit on how often a person can write.
Find out what this is, and don't send more than the limit.
Avoid self-righteous language and exaggeration. Readers will
dismiss your arguments.
For example:"Only a heartless sadist could
continue to eat meat and dairy 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."
"Most compassionate people would stop eating animal
products if they saw how horribly the animals are raised and
Don't assume your audience knows the issue.
" Maxxam, the
Houston corporation, cuts down 2,000-year-old trees to make 2x4s. Ancient
forests are a national treasure, and are more important than paper
Writing to Legislators:
"Legislators estimate that 10 letters from constituents
represent the concerns of 10,000 citizens. Anybody who will take the time to
write is voicing the fears and desires of thousands more."
Congressperson Billy Evan
Some people refuse to write letters to legislators because they
feel it is a waste of time, or because they do not support the U.S. government,
or any government. This is a complicated issue. However, if you don't know if
the letter you write will have any impact, why not choose to err on the safe
Writing a letter doesn't mean you are selling out, or that you
support a fraudulent government. The SLF is composed of mainly anarchists, but
we recognize that our movements need every tactic we have to bring about total
- Find out your state and federal legislators.
Or you can call
202-224-3121 and tell the operator your zip code.
- Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, NOT a member of an organization.
Politicians will think you are pushing a group's agenda, rather than being a
good ol' neighbor.
- Keep letters brief- no more than one page. If you're writing about a bill,
mention the bill's name and number and whether you support or oppose it in the
first paragraph. Include reasons and supporting data in the next paragraph.
Conclude by asking for a response.
Focus on a very specific topic.
- As few as 10 letters on any topic can sway a legislator's vote. An hour of
letter writing every month may make a big impact.