Letters to the editor is a space carved out for you.
It’s a corner of the newspaper and our website where you can tell us what you think, and perhaps more importantly, tell other readers what you think and how you feel about something we’ve published or an issue in the community.
At best, letters inspire others to think and are cause for debate. At worst, they’re venomous and hurtful, written only to “stir the pot” with no solutions offered.
A letter, or even a comment on the website, can be a powerful tool if it is written thoughtfully, but rambling rants never win fans or call others to your cause.
Here are a few simple writing tips to consider before putting pencil to paper or fingertips to keyboard:
1. Keep it simple.
Short words and simple sentences are a good, basic rule and will hold the interest of readers. Long words and complicated sentence structure are hard to comprehend and frustrating.
Only use words you would in conversation. Reading a letter to the editor or online comment should not require a dictionary. While I may take the time to look up a word when proofreading your piece, no one else will. They’ll just quit reading.
2. Offer a solution.
Nobody likes a whiner. Anyone who spends time with children can hear that from them. They don’t need it from the adults in their lives.
Feel free to share complaints, but try to offer a solution with it. Sometimes there’s not an easy solution, but make it clear you’re willing to work to find one. It will inspire others to action.
3. Be nice.
Think of your favorite people. Are they mean and hateful? No.
They’re likely kind, thoughtful and considerate of others. Embody that person when you write.
I’m not trying to gloss over anger and frustration, which definitely have a place on the opinion page, but there is a way to effectively present those feelings. A controlled, well-written explanation of how you feel and the reasons behind it will likely get the readers’ attention and even solicit help or people to your side of an issue.
Spewing contentious words and phrases only drives others away, even those who would likely take your side.
And last, but certainly not least in my book, are grammar, punctuation and capitalization. All those rules apply not only to formal letters, but also to online comments.
Words are powerful and should be chosen carefully. Make every one count and use them wisely to best express yourself.