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From the e-book “Dear Editor – a common man’s (not so common) opinion”:
(it can be reviewed, ordered and downloaded directly from the publisher, Smashwords)
Chapter 2- INTRODUCTION
There is a wide gap between the vast majority of people who rarely say anything outside their own polite circle of family and friends, and the few who write books and articles about various topics, often expressing very strong opinions from one extreme to the other. In-between we have newspaper columnists and radio and TV personalities who express their opinion, also at times with one extreme position or another.
Letters to the Editor (LTE) serve an extraordinarily important function by letting the more or less common individual express an opinion, add insight, weed out misunderstandings, influence people, and help spread enlightenment, – or in many cases unfortunately, bigotry. Such letters fill the gap between the many who say nothing and books and articles too heavy and time consuming for most of us. It is amazing what can be expressed in a few words in a readers’ opinion section of a newspaper. Opinion letters are as close to grass roots as you can get. And, they do have an impact! Whether left-oriented, right-oriented, or des-oriented, the opinion pages with LTE’s are often read with greater interest and by more people than he rest of the paper, – with the possible exclusion of the obituaries that older people seem to gravitate to.
Chapter 3- WRITING LETTERS TO AN EDITOR, – ANY EDITOR
It is a thrill to see your name in print, not as part of a police blotter, but underneath something you have written and which an editor judged worthy of space. You’ll get used to it!
Most papers will not accept anonymous letters. Personally, I think that’s the way it should be. Why not stand for what you write and express as your opinion?
Most of the time a letter to the editor will be acknowledged, often with a polite thank you and reminder that the paper is inundated with an avalanche of letters, few of which will be selected for publication due to space limitations. Here are a couple of the nicer ones:
Thank you for your submission to the Globe’s letters page. Because of the volume of letters we receive, we cannot print all the letters we would like to. In the event that we are unable to publish your letter, we hope that you will write to us another time.
The Boston Globe
A representative of The Chronicle will contact you if your letter is accepted for publication to verify that you are indeed the author of the submission.
If your piece is not accepted for publication, do not be discouraged. The Chronicle receives dozens — frequently hundreds –of submissions every day. We publish about four to 10 letters a day.
If your letter is accepted, it will be subject to editing. In addition to fact-checking, editors edit for length, grammar and conventions designed to ease the reading and understanding of the text, e.g., whether a number is expressed as two or 2.
The SF Chronicle.
For more advice, go to “Advice for letter writers” at the end of this book. Here you’ll find a column by Jon Mays, Editor of the San Mateo Daily Journal, and a piece on letter writing from the Planned Parenthood’s web site.
Chapter 4 – REJECTS? DON’T WORRY!
We’re all occasional rejects!
Oh, big disappointment, – your first letter to a local newspaper of your choice didn’t make it to print? Join the club of us rejects! Get used to it, since most letters will not be published. But don’t give up! Some of my very best letters have been rejected. Actually, I have been rejected by some of the most prestigious papers in the country! Isn’t that something to brag about? Even if rejected by the first paper you submit your letter to, the next one might accept it. Or the third one …
With the possible exception of very small papers in small communities, most newspapers receive far more letters to the editor than for which they have space. Most papers have guidelines in terms of maximum number of words, and how often they will publish letters from the same writer. Enforcement of such guidelines is up to the editor and may be ignored for letters that the editor really likes. I have had letters published on two consecutive days in the same paper, but that is a rather rare exception. I’ve also had letters exceeding the stated maximum limit published, but not often. If the editor likes the content, he or she may ask you to shorten it some. At times you may wonder why they didn’t print your letter instead of an absolutely ridiculous submittal from an intellectually challenged moron. It is often hard to tell why certain letters are selected for publication, while others are rejected. At times I suspect that the editor simply wants to hang out someone, or display a new low for understanding an issue or a new high for bigotry. Occasionally, I’m surprised to see a particularly radical or progressive letter of mine published, even in a paper not exactly famous for sharing my views. An editor’s mind works in mysterious ways!
Where I think that the rejection may have some significance, perhaps implying something about the rejecting paper, I have included “Submitted to …”. Perhaps you can get my rejects published, either “as is”, or modified and improved by you. If the editor has changed the title I submitted, I have included the original as well. Many editors like to change something, – and not always to the better! Whenever the editor has had the audacity to delete something, I have included the cuts in italics. Positive as well as negative comments from readers are also shown in italics, as well as letters responding to something I have written, or letters I have responded to. Here and there you will find an exchange of letters back and forth, – at times leaving you wondering what on earth did the writer of a letter shown in italics mean! That’s part of the fun, – to see someone so enraged that they go totally off the deep end, particularly when it comes to politics or religion, – and especially a mix of the two.
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