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What follows is an article reprinted with the kind permission of Glenn Hardie.

HOW TO WRITE "LETTERS TO THE EDITOR"
(that have a good chance of being published)
by Glenn Hardie

First, there is no doubt about the fact that a good "Letter to the Editor" is one of the most effective ways of getting a point of view in front of a large number of people for a minimal expenditure of both time and money.

Secondly, I have had some success with getting letters to various editors printed In a variety of newspapers, magazines and other journals over several years, I write about one letter each month, and I have a success rate of about one published every three months.

Thirdly, I have a simple formula which may be worth considering by those who hesitate to write such letters because they think they do not have the appropriate skills. The main points are itemized below.

  1. Write! Put pen to paper, fingers to keyboards. Newspapers can only publish from letters they receive: If you don't write, you won't get published! The more, the merrier and the exercise is also good for clarifying one's own thoughts on any issue.



  2. Keep it short. Focus on just one item, or on a few very closely related issues. Few editors will publish long rambling diatribes. About 300 words is about as much as will be considered. Use short sentences, dealing with one point or issue each; do not let sentences run on with a string of separate ideas each connected by ďand".



  3. Keep it clear. Use short words where possible and avoid multi-syllable words, except where required to make a specific technical point (e.g. use the word "do" instead of the word "execute"). Organize your sentences to a few simple paragraphs, each dealing with one topic.



  4. Keep it factual. Check your own facts with authorities. Quote reliable, known sources for your comments. List your references so that others can check out your claims. Point out errors, ambiguities, or other discrepancies in the work of the person you are criticizing.



  5. Keep it simple. Avoid words that may have more than one meaning (e.g. the word "execute" used above has more than one meaning). Avoid slang or swear words which might put people off and avoid the casual use of trite "sayings of the day". Use common-place phrases or aphorisms in strict context only where necessary.



  6. Open with a brief summary of the topic to which you are responding. This is (a) for the benefit of readers who may have missed the original item, and (b) to set the scene for your rebuttal (e.g. "I write to comment on (topic), published in your edition dated YYY").



  7. Never indulge in personal insults. You are discussing ideas and opinions. Do not attack people's personalities, lifestyles, appearances, or mental or physical short-comings. It is not only unkind; it can lead lawsuits for libel. Adopt an impersonal stance (or tone) for your letter.



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