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Tips on Writing Letters to the Editor and Opinion-Editorials

Contributing opinion pieces to local publications, including your school newspaper, is a good way to increase awareness of the problem of underage drinking. A well-written letter to the editor or op-ed (opinion-editorial article) can and should:

  • Reach and inform many parents, caregivers, and other concerned adults;
  • Focus on increasing awareness of the harms of underage drinking to children and adolescents; and
  • Increase discussions and debates about underage alcohol use.

Guest editorials and guest columns are additional forms of opinion items used by the media. A writer may be invited to submit an item. Of course, a writer can also offer to submit a guest column.

Most opinion pieces appear in print media. Television, local access cable, radio stations, and websites air them as well. The blogs of print media are another forum for individual opinions on specific issues.

Remember that a letter to the editor generally is written in response to a published article about underage alcohol use. It should be sent promptly following publication. Newspapers today accept submission by email. Op-eds give you more space to address the issue. They do not have to be written in response to published articles and can be sent at any time.

Here are some pointers on how you might construct a letter to the editor or an op-ed to increase public awareness of underage drinking:

  • State your topic or reason for writing. If you are writing a letter to the editor, cite the specific article to which you are responding. For example: "Your recent article, Youth and Alcohol, was disturbing. As a student in the local middle school, I have seen many instances in which youth have made good decisions and avoided alcohol use." Some newspapers also need to know the date and section in which the article appeared.
  • State the reasons for your interest. Cite facts, statistics, examples, and anecdotes to support your point of view. Local facts about the issue are particularly effective. Quoting local authorities on the subject can lend strong support to your message.
  • Once your position is established, propose logical ways to address the issue, such as the sponsorship of alcohol-free community events.
  • From there, describe the various elements of the program and how youth and community members can get involved.