Both in Italy and Britain ‘Letters to the Editor’ can arguably be considered a means through which readers can express and debate opinions on current affairs and thereby contribute to and participate in the democratic process. Two main questions arise: first, to what extent can one talk about ‘democratic participation’ in either case, given the role of the ‘Letters' in the two cultural settings?; second, to what extent and at what levels does the discourse of the ‘Letters' encode ‘participation’? It is argued that the Italian and British ‘Letters' perform significantly different functions, reflecting the different roles played by the press in Britain and Italy. A model for the analysis of ‘participation’ in the discourse of the ‘Letters' is suggested and exemplified. The findings from its application to a corpus of British and Italian ‘Letters' are presented and assessed in the light of the preceeding cultural comparison.