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Sawyer: Follow the rules to get election letters published

Sawyer: Follow the rules to get election letters published

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With the conventions over, election season is now in full swing. That means many readers will be submitting letters to the editor supporting their favorite candidates.

The newspaper is normally inundated with letters as the election draws nearer. Our goal is to publish all of the letters we receive, although there are space and time constraints that always come into play.

We will publish as many letters as possible between now and Nov. 2, the Friday before election day. In order to ensure that your letter gets published, here are a few pieces of friendly advice:

Be as brief as possible: Election-related letters are limited to 150 words. The key to a great letter, or any piece of writing, is to cover the subject as succinctly as possible. Mark Twain once told a friend that he wrote him a lengthy letter, “because I didn’t have time to write you a short one.” In other words, length doesn’t equate to a good argument or a memorable letter. Letters will be edited, even those less than 150 words.

Follow the rules: In addition to the 150-word limit, make sure to include your name, an address for verification purposes and a phone number where we can reach you if we have questions. You can send your letter by email or by regular mail. We’d prefer email, simply because it makes communication easier and we can process email letters faster. Also, we allow one letter per writer every 30 days. So, plan accordingly.

Spend a few minutes on spelling and grammar: We don’t expect everyone to care as much about correct comma placement as our copy editors. But it’s astonishing how many letters we receive that are not written in complete sentences, are full of incorrect spellings and seem to ignore basic grammar. We won’t reject your letter for bad grammar, but we’d appreciate letter writers taking a few moments to proofread their submissions. And please don’t write in ALL CAPS. It’s annoying.

Be original: Some election organizations provide letters or sample letters that writers simply have to sign. We’re not interested in those and they are usually easy to spot and won’t get published. Write in your own words.

Stick to the facts: Letters are opinion pieces and we understand that there are “facts” that can support almost every opinion. But if you write something that is blatantly wrong or incorrect, your letter won’t be published immediately.

Submit early: All election letters are due at The Pantagraph by 5 p.m. Oct. 24, and the last letters will be published on Nov. 2. We know that everyone wants to get the last word in, but that comes with a risk. We publish letters roughly in the order they are received, and as I said, there are space constraints. So, if you submit your letter toward the end of the process, there’s a chance it won’t be published. The earlier you submit your letter, the better the chance that it will be published.

Avoid name calling: We know it’s tempting to call your candidate’s opponent a worthless scumbag. Resist that temptation because it also violates our policies. The best letters tell readers why you are supporting your candidate, rather than attacking the opposition. The best letters discuss issues, not personalities.

The editorial page is, at its best, a community conversation that examines issues from several sides. That’s the conversation we look forward to with letters to the editor as the November elections approach.


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