Writing a letter? Great, just follow a few rules

One of the most popular elements of our daily opinion page is the section we devote to letters to the editor. This slice of the page offers readers an opportunity to share their viewpoint on topics ranging from taxes and the environment to politics and religion. Last year we received nearly 3,400 locally written letters and we’re pleased to report that we published more than 62 percent of them. If you’re a seasoned writer, or thinking of writing your first letter, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Please try to limit your letter to about 300 words. Yes, we’ve been known to bend that rule (just look to your right at today’s letter section) but we have to set the limit somewhere to start with. Some letters are long and very difficult to edit. Others are long but read well. When we have to make a choice between a well-written shorter letter and a longer one, the short one will almost always survive the cut.
  • Do your own work. We realize that in this information crazy age, it’s awfully tempting to pass along a great letter or a noble thought written by someone else. The urge to hit forward and send is especially powerful when you agree 100 percent with the author. The old "couldn’t have said it better myself" rule doesn’t apply to letters to the editor. This is one case where saying it yourself — in your own words — is essential. When we get the same letter from two or three (or more) sources, writers can be certain that it’s headed for the "no" pile.
  • We need the first and last name of the letter writer, along with an address and daytime phone number. We don’t ask for the number so that we can give it out to people who want to call you up in the middle of the night to disagree with your viewpoint. We use the information for verification or contact purposes only and never give out addresses or phone numbers. The letter writer’s name and city of residence are the only two pieces of personal data that we publish.
  • Given the ever-growing risk of computer viruses, we’re unable to open email letters sent as attachments.

    Letters can be sent via email to letters@heraldnet.com or through the U.S. Postal Service with the new 37-cent stamp. Address the envelope to: Letters to the Editor, The Herald, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. We’ve even got a fax machine at (425) 339-3458 if that’s your preferred method of communication. While we wish we had the staff to respond individually to every letter, or to let you know if (and when) your letter might run, we simply don’t. We welcome calls from letter writers and are happy to answer questions.

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