Guidelines for writing a letter to the editor:

1. What is the appropriate length? Most letters are approximately 200-300 words long, but check with the letters editor of the campus and community papers and other publication outlets for their length restrictions.

2. To whom should the letter be addressed? This information may be listed on the letters page; if not, a short website visit or phone call to the paper will provide all the needed information.

3. What news articles or letters are being published about alcohol related issues? If someone else makes a point in agreement with the policy goals of your organization, write in support of their statement; if you disagree, write in dissent. Letters in response to articles or letters can clarify details, point out facts which were omitted, or correct false or misleading information. Refer to the article or letter by noting its title and date in parentheses.

4. Don't overuse statistics. Do use creative epidemiology or "social math" techniques for clarity.

5. Address one subject per letter. Include a brief statement of the subject at hand (one or two sentences at most), and assume that some readers do not know much about the topic or did not read the previous article or letter.

6. Don't be accusatory when writing in disagreement; simply point out the writer's errors. Send letters of response as quickly as possible; if the topic becomes "old news," your letter may not be printed.



To the Editor:

Like most parents in [INSERT COMMUNITY], I want to help create an environment that promotes and protects children’s health. That’s why I’m outraged by NBC’s decision to air ads for hard-liquor, abandoning a 50-year voluntary ban.

NBC claims that late-prime-time booze ads will be aimed only at adults and will be "responsible." How many teens do you know who aren’t watching television after 9 p.m., when the liquor commercials will run? Let’s face it, liquor promoters will use NBC to market their products aggressively, as brewers have, through the medium that has the strongest influence on young people.

Television networks use our airwaves. They have an undeniable public-interest responsibility to use them in ways that do not cause harm. The promotion of underage liquor consumption hardly qualifies as a "public service." Liquor advertising on network television threatens to open the floodgates of other industry maneuvers to mainstream liquor and hook our kids.

Congress must act to reestablish community standards that broadcasters and booze makers so readily flout. NBC’s popular "reality" show, "Fear Factor," puts twenty-somethings in peril, such as walking a tightrope or the wing of an airborne plane. We should not allow NBC’s new liquor ads to do the same to our children.

Phone Number



To the Editor:

As a concerned parent, I have made a point of speaking with my children about alcohol throughout their childhood and adolescent years. I emphasized that alcohol is a drink for adults and should be consumed responsibly, if at all. I always tried to counter the notion that alcohol is romantic or cool: A life destroyed by alcoholism or drunk-driving is certainly neither.

NBC has made parents’ jobs much harder. Facing a budget-crunch and skyrocketing anchor salaries, NBC chose to break with 50-years of voluntarily banning ads for hard liquor. Now when children watch shows like Saturday Night Live, they will see ads for booze mixed in with the show’s sketch comedy. NBC claims it is doing the "responsible" thing and that few children will see the ads. I say I can spot a lie at a distance beyond our television set. NBC’s action will only serve to give liquor companies their future market, our children.

NBC needs to sober up. Congress should step in and stop NBC from making it more difficult for parents to keep their children away from liquor.

Phone number


1. Every newspaper has its own method for determining what topics are covered and which positions are taken on the editorial page. Most editorial boards are open to meetings with advocacy groups. If a well-known spokesperson or expert is part of your coalition, bring them to the meeting. No more than three people should attend this meeting.

2. Persuade an editorial board to take your organization's side on an issue when a specific alcohol related policy is being debated. The editorial board can give your argument strength that may carry additional weight with decision makers.

3. Bring short fact sheets or position papers on the topic and a list of groups supporting the initiative.

4. Be prepared to discuss the subject in detail, and do not be discouraged if the editors argue the opposing viewpoint. They need to think thoroughly about the topic in order to make a decision on their position.


1. Find out the length requirements. Most editorials are three double-spaced, typed pages about 750 words.

2. What s the deadline for submitting an op-ed? Call the editorial staff at the newspaper to find out.

3. Write in a fairly conversational tone. Read other columnists for examples of tone.

4. Discuss one theme only, using two to five main points for support.

5. Include the source in the text as much as possible when citing facts. For example, a sentence might read: "'A 1991 nationwide survey by Southern Illinois University found that one-third of college students preferred events where alcohol is not served."

Click here to view action alert on broadcast liquor ads.

January 2002