A letter to the editor (sometimes abbreviated LTTE or LTE) is a letter sent to a publication about issues of concern from its readers. Usually, letters are intended for publication. In many publications, letters to the editor may be sent either through conventional mail or electronic mail. Letters to the editor are most frequently associated with newspapers and newsmagazines. However, they are sometimes published in other periodicals (such as entertainment and technical magazines), and radio and television stations. In the latter instance, letters are sometimes read on the air (usually, on a news broadcast or on talk radio). In that presentation form, it can also be described as viewer mail or listener mail, depending on the medium. In academic publishing, letters to the editor of an academic journal are usually open postpublication reviews of a paper, often critical of some aspect of the original paper. The authors of the original paper sometimes respond to these with a letter of their own. Controversial papers in mainstream journals often attract numerous letters to the editor. Good citation indexing services list the original papers together with all replies. Depending on the length of the letter and the journal's style, other types of headings may be used, such as peer commentary. There are some variations on this practice. Some journals request open commentaries as a matter of course, which are published together with the original paper, and any authors' reply, in a process called open peer commentary. The introduction of the "epub ahead of print" practice in many journals now allows unsolicited letters to the editor (and authors' reply) to appear in the same print issue of the journal, as long as they are sent in the interval between the electronic publication of the original paper and its appearance in print.
1 Subject matter 2 History 3 Misrepresentation 4 See also 5 References 6 External links
Subject matter The subject matter of letters to the editor vary widely. However, the most common topics include:
Supporting or opposing a stance taken by the publication in its editorial, or responding to another writer's letter to the editor. Commenting on a current issue being debated by a governing body – local, regional or national depending on the publication's circulation. Often, the writer will urge elected officials to make their decision based on his/her viewpoint. Remarking on materials (such as a news story) that have appeared in a previous edition. Such letters may either be critical or praising. Correcting a perceived error or misrepresentation.
The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article, discuss the issue on the talk page, or create a new article, as appropriate. (December 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
LTEs always have been a feature of American newspapers. Much of the
earliest news reports and commentaries published by early-American
newspapers were delivered in the form of letters, and by the mid-18th
century, LTEs were a dominant carrier of political and social
discourse. Many influential essays about the role of government in
matters such as personal freedoms and economic development took the
form of letters — consider
Cato's Letters or Letters from a Farmer
in Pennsylvania, which were widely reprinted in early American
newspapers. Through the 19th century, LTEs were increasingly
centralized near the editorials of newspapers, so that by the turn of
the 20th century LTEs had become permanent fixtures of the opinion
Modern LTE forums differ little from those earlier counterparts. A
typical forum will include a half-dozen to a dozen letters (or
excerpts from letters). The letters chosen for publication usually are
only a sample of the total letters submitted, with larger-circulation
publications running a much smaller percentage of submissions and
small-circulation publications running nearly all of the relatively
few letters they receive. Editors generally read all submissions, but
in general most will automatically reject letters that include
profanity, libelous statements, personal attacks against individuals
or specific organizations, that are unreasonably long (most
publications suggest length limits ranging from 200 to 500 words) or
that are submitted anonymously.
The latter criterion is a fairly recent development in LTE management.
Prior to the Cold War paranoia of the mid-20th century, anonymous LTEs
were common; in fact, the right to write anonymously was central to
the free-press/free-speech movement (as in the 1735 trial against John
Peter Zenger, which started with an anonymous essay). By the 1970s,
editors had developed strong negative attitudes toward anonymous
letters, and by the end of the 20th century, about 94 percent of
newspapers automatically rejected anonymous LTEs. Some newspapers in
the 1980s and '90s created special anonymous opinion forums that
allowed people to either record short verbal opinions via telephone
(which were then transcribed and published) or send letters that were
either unsigned or where the author used a pseudonym. Although many
journalists derided the anonymous call-in forums as unethical (for
instance, someone could make an unfounded opinion without worry of the
consequences or having to back the comment up with hard facts),
defenders argued that such forums upheld the free-press tradition of
vigorous, uninhibited debate similar to that found in earlier
Although primarily considered a function of print publications, LTEs
also are present in electronic media. In broadcast journalism, LTEs
have always been a semi-regular feature of 60 Minutes and the news
programs of National Public Radio. LTE's also are widespread on the
Internet in various forms.
By the early 21st century, the Internet had become a delivery system
for many LTEs via e-mail and news Web sites (in fact, after several
envelopes containing a powder suspected to be anthrax were mailed to
lawmakers and journalists, several news organizations announced they
would only accept e-mail LTEs). Because the Internet broadly expanded
the potential readership of editorials and opinion columns at small
newspapers, their controversial editorials or columns could sometimes
attract much more e-mail than they were used to handling — so much
so that a few newspapers had their e-mail servers crash.
Editors are a frequent target of letter-writing campaigns, also called
“astroturfing,” or “fake grass-roots” operations where sample
letters are distributed on the Internet or otherwise, to be copied or
rewritten and submitted as personal letters.
Although LTE management gets little attention in trade journals, one
organization, the National Conference of
Open letter Comic book letter column Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells
^ "Definition from Duke University's University Writing Program"
(PDF). Uwp.duke.edu. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
^ Action Tips: Organize a Letter Writing Campaign Dosomething.org
^ Sample LTE Archived 2012-08-03 at
Man of Letters by Andrew Ferguson (Wall Str