By Karen Roush, PhD, RN, FNP, AJN clinical managing editor
We love getting letters to the editor . . . really . . . whether it’s to agree or disagree, applaud or admonish. With some articles we actually feel a sense of excited anticipation—this should get some letters!—not because we like to create controversy (though we don’t shy away from it either when there’s something important at stake), but because we want to create dialogue among our readers.
That’s what the Letters to the Editor column is for: to add to the conversation by pointing out nuances, adding support from personal experience, expressing a dissenting view of a topic, or offering corrections or clarifications.
A good letter to the editor contains:
• a point of view
• a sense of the writer and why they were moved to write a letter
• additional information that clarifies, corrects, or enhances the original text (and the evidence backing it up)
• a reasoned, respectful argument (and the evidence to back it up) against some aspect of the original text
• a narrative that gives a clearer sense of the human implications of the original text
These are the main criteria we look for in the letters we receive.
We are glad when you enjoy an article or are pleased to see the topic covered in print or can relate to something we published. Drop us a line anytime and let us know. We share those emails with the staff and it helps us know that we are staying on target. But those types of letters are usually not going to get published. They matter to us, but they don’t add a lot to the conversation.
A special alert for students: we get a lot of letters from students that follow along these lines:
I really liked the article/enjoyed reading the article/agree with the author. Here are some other studies/research/evidence that say the same thing about the topic. This is what I do/did/want to do/all nurses should do related to the article.
Such letters are good examples of the kind that don’t get published because they don’t add anything new to the conversation. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, many student letters are about short items in our News section. These articles are often about studies that have been published elsewhere; they summarize findings, provide valuable analysis and context, and sometimes quote study authors or others with a stake in the topic. If you have something to say about the topic of the news item, and it meets the general criteria I listed above, then send it to us. If you have something to say about the individual studies, consider whether your letter should instead go to the journal that published the original study, not to us.)
And please, if you are writing a letter to the editor as a required student assignment, do your best to make sure it meets the criteria above. It should go without saying, but never send us a letter with the instruction not to publish it because it was “only for an assignment” (yes, that does happen). It takes us valuable time to review letters and consider them for publication.
So, in a nutshell: Keep reading the journal, please! It’s important to your practice and the profession that you stay current on what is happening clinically, professionally, and on the policy front. When you find yourself especially moved by something we publish and you have something additional to say about it, or if you think we’ve missed the boat on something, then by all means, send us a letter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now—write on. Join the conversation. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.