In an era in which readers are more likely to post comments at the bottom of an online article or on a blog or on Facebook, we believe there is still a place for the good old-fashioned letter to the editor.
Unlike online commenting, letters to the editor must go through something of a vetting process before being published. Largely, this is in order to maintain a measure of civility that, sadly, is often lacking online.
On our opinion pages, we aim to provide a forum to stir community conversation. We appreciate diversity of thought and do not pick which letters run or don't run based on our viewpoint.
If you're wondering why your letter wasn't printed or are hoping to have one that is, read what follows. These do's and don'ts will make the process easier for you and our editors.
• Your homework. In other words, check your facts. We have a small staff and can't do this for you. If you're unsure of something, look it up. If you include a nugget of information that is not widely known, include where you found that fact.
• Express your opinion. Tell us what you like or dislike. We particularly appreciate it when you comment on our articles and opinion pieces regarding local issues. But state, national and world issues are also on the table, if they are of relevance to our readers.
• Keep it short. Our policy calls for letters of 300 words or fewer. Sure, we try to be a little flexible, and from time to time, you might see a letter a little longer but still in the ballpark. If you must go way over the limit, it won't run, at least not as a letter to the editor. Consider requesting a guest column instead — but we have limited space for these.
• Email your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also email one of our editors, but it is more efficient to send your letters to the address specifically designated for them.
• Let us know who you are. Include your full name, address and phone number with your letter. We won't publish your digits, don't worry. We just need to give you a call to make sure the letter was actually written by you. Yes, “letter-to-the-editor fraud” does happen.
• Put words in someone's mouth. You can write in support — or opposition — of another person, such as a candidate for public office, but don't assign any thoughts, opinions or actions to an individual that haven't been publicly documented. If you do so, we may consider it a news tip and investigate the validity of your claim, but we won't run it as a letter to the editor.
• Buy a stamp. “Snail mail” isn't efficient when it comes to letters to the editor. As mentioned, we have a small staff and can't take the time to retype your letter (which, we're guessing, was written on a computer anyway). Email your letter to the address mentioned earlier. It will get to us faster, something you will appreciate if you want to see it published in the upcoming edition of the newspaper.
• Inundate us with letters. By this, we mean from one person. We want everyone to have their say, so don't expect to see more than two of your letters printed in any given month.
• Be surprised if we edit for grammar or punctuation. We approach this very judiciously, however. A tip: DON'T WRITE IN ALL CAPS or use a lot of !!!
• Use profanity or call someone a word you wouldn't use in front of your mother.
Your letters really do matter. We look forward to seeing more of them.