Andrea Rondeau column: A few tips for letters to the editor

priority is given to letters from members of our community

Here at the Citizen we’re really fortunate to have a passionate and involved community. For the paper, specifically, this translates into a lot of letters to the editor.

While some editors at some newspapers struggle to find a letter or two to fill the opinion pages, I have the opposite problem (not really a problem): trying to fit in as many of your letters as I can in the amount of space given.

That’s why we ask that letters to the editor be 300 words or less. I’m pretty liberal in the application of this rule. If you go over, even way, way over, I’m not just going to junk your missive. But your chances of it getting published in the print edition, especially getting published right away, get smaller as the word count gets larger. All letters are published online, with the exception of those that are libelous (don’t accuse people of criminal activity in letters to the editor, please, unless they’ve actually been convicted of something — and even then, if I have to start verifying a whole bunch of sensitive information that could get us both in a lot of trouble, your letter drops down the list), just plain unnecessarily mean, especially if it’s to a non-politician or another letter writer, or contains a whole bunch of inaccurate information.

It’s also really helpful to get letters through email — if you’ve already typed it up, send it electronically, so I don’t have to re-type it. We do accept hand written letters as well, for those who can’t or don’t want to use the computer, but it may take a few days to get it typed up.

Also, be sure to attach a town you hail from (we will not print your full address, but need to know if you’re from Duncan, Chemainus, Cobble Hill etc.), and a way you can be contacted if we need to get hold of you.

In choosing what will make the cut for print there are other considerations besides length as well. A woman came in to the office this week asking if we’d consider printing a letter that someone, not from the community, had put out online. I told her that it was unlikely we’d use it, as priority is given to one, letters from members of our community, and two, letters that address issues pertaining to our community or articles that have appeared in our paper. As this was neither, and the writer had not sent his letter to us directly, as a community paper it just doesn’t rate.

In closing I’d like to thank all of our readers who send in letters. It is one of my favourite parts of the newspaper and continuing the vibrant conversation on the opinion pages makes our publication better.

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