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Letters to the Editor

By Barbara Florio Graham

The Letters page is one of the most popular sections of any newspaper, and is therefore an ideal way to keep your name and your core message in front of the public.

Use every possibility that arises to write a letter to the editor, and urge your supporters to do the same. The general rule is that one letter on a subject is usually ignored unless the Letters' Editor feels it is especially significant. Two or three letters on the same subject cause the Editor to put them aside and consider running the best one, and five or more letters amount to a mandate to publish at least one.

Letters must be personally written, as form letters with different signatures are quickly recognized and discarded. Letters should be brief, typed and signed, with the full name, address, and telephone number of the writer typed beneath the signature. Addresses and telephone numbers are not published but are essential so that the Editor can verify that the letter is authentic. If you're especially concerned about including this information, put it in parentheses and indicate clearly "Not for Publication".

Give each of your supporters your identifying statement, along with a descriptive paragraph containing a few more significant details (such as the date of the organization's founding, some recent accomplishments, a high-profile sponsor or honourary Board member). These should be used in every letter, although the rest of the letter should be in the writer's own words.

Begin each letter with a reference to the news or feature article which provoked the comment, along with its date of publication, and try to make a positive comment, even if you follow it with reservations.

A good letter to the editor:

· begins with a positive or neutral statement
· is fair and moderate in its criticism of the paper or reporter
· avoids strong pejorative language concerning the issue on the opposite side of the paper or the reporter
· uses simple sentence structure and active verbs
· employs laymen's language
· offers some new information of interest to the readers
· keeps to one major point
· is not longer than 250 words
· closes politely, perhaps suggesting a possible course of action for the paper or its readers
· is typed with full name and title below signature along with complete address and telephone number

Barbara Florio Graham is the author of "Five Fast Steps to Better Writing", "Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity" and "Mewsings/Musings". Her Web site is

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