Assessing Letters

Recently, after a talk I gave about the Register, a reader asked a question I have heard often from others: How can I get my letter published in the Register?

It’s an excellent question. There are certain characteristics that automatically disqualify letters, and certain qualities that virtually guarantee that we will publish them.

My advice:

1. Always write with charity and respect. We love letters that tackle serious issues; we reject letters that attack persons. Often, letters arrive that have an excellent point, but surround that point with personal attacks on men and women who hold opposing views. If you want your letter published, make certain that it is about the value of an argument someone made, not about the value of the person who made the argument.

2. Make one point. Letter writers often have many things they would like to say about a topic. But even if you can make more than one point in the word count we have allotted you, the truly effective letters are those that make one point clearly and succinctly. Speaking of which …

3. Pay attention to the word count. Our guidelines call for letters to be no more than 300 words long.

4. Refer to an article. This advice is also part of our letter writing guidelines. Our letters page is a place for discussion about Register stories, not a place for sounding off.

5. Use e-mail. If you have access to e-mail or know someone who does, use that as the method by which you send in your letter. We often use letters that were mailed to us, but with our small staff it is much easier to use letters that are already available to us in electronic form and don’t need to be re-typed.

6. Give your name, city and state. It is always sad to see the excellent letters we would love to run — but cannot, because we have no city and state and no way to verify if writers are who they say they are.

Write on!