I was reminded last week we aren’t the only newspapers that don’t run every letter to the editor we receive verbatim when my publisher handed me an e-mail highlighting some basics of publishing letters.
The e-mail outlines excerpts from “Community Journalism/A Way of Life,” by Bruce Kennedy, regarding letters to the editor.
The excerpt says, “Print all the sincere letters you receive, bud don’t feel obligated to print those which are more interested in personally attacking the editor than in making a point.”
We have, however, printed letters in the past that have done just that to reassure our readers that just because they don’t agree with us doesn’t mean we are going to ignore their opinion. We do draw the line when we feel it's over the top and we either omit the offensive section or decide not to print the letter.
Kennedy continues, “Or those from the letter writer who keeps sending letter after letter.”
We do receive numerous letters from the same individuals and we don’t print all of them. We select which we feel best address our demographic and hold onto the others to print at a later date if possible. Everyone deserves a chance to be heard in the opinion section so we work to ensure a few writers don’t monopolize the opinion page. If we have the room, we will run a multiple letters written by a single person within a few weeks of each other, but we try to space them out.
The excerpt concludes, “Don’t hesitate to cut the letter’s length if you can do it without ruining the intent.”
A good journalist isn’t wordy when it comes to his or her writing. We get straight to the point and use a limited number of adjectives — that’s the style of the craft.
The general public, on the other hand, writes the way they were taught in school, which includes flowery, repetitive language — a journalist’s worst nightmare. Keep that in mind when you send us a 500-word letter and then see it appear in the paper under 300 words, which is our limit for letters to the editor. We can find words to cut some writers aren’t aware are even in the letter. I can't stand seeing the word “that” peppered unnecessarily throughout any type of writing. I would guess 90 percent of the time a person uses “that,” it is not necessary.
So next time you send a letter to the editor keep in mind:
- We receive many letters every week and often cannot fit them all on Page 4 immediately after they come in. Be patient and your letter will likely appear on the page at a later date.
- If a letter you submitted a few weeks earlier appeared in the paper, the second letter isn’t very likely to make it in.
- The limit is 300 words and we will cut them to fit the criteria.
- Be polite. The opinion section isn’t meant to be a forum for picking on anybody.
- Requests to run letters exactly as they are submitted will not be granted. We’re editors. We edit everything, including ourselves.
If you have any other questions regarding letters to the editor, click on submissions on the home page for quick answers or contact the newsroom.
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