Most of the letters to the editor we get are thoughtful expressions of the writers’ point of view. A small number, however, are mean-spirited, racist or even filthy.
One letter we received after columnist Charles Krauthammer’s column about Barack Obama appeared is the kind we don’t approve for publication. The writer implied that only black Americans would be interested in an Obama presidency. And if he or another black candidate were elected, it would likely result in the kind of wild celebrations that occur after a city’s team wins the World Series or a Super Bowl: "gangs take over the streets, people are killed or attacked, buildings are burned, etc."
Another recent letter writer described Sen. Maria Cantwell as a "prototypical liberal slut." His language went downhill from there. It was so filthy, I asked our computer folks to please filter out future screeds from him. He did sign his name, though. Most people who send really awful letters do so anonymously. Which gives us another reason to reject them: We don’t run anonymous letters.
What kind of letters DO we run? Here are some tips for better letter writing:
1. Be timely. The quicker you respond, the better. Don’t wait a week or two to get that clever rejoinder off your chest.
2. Be brief. Short letters are best. Just because we have a 250-word limit doesn’t mean you need 250 words to make your point. Short letters are more effective – and more likely to get read. All letters are subject to editing for length and clarity.
3. Address your comments to the newspaper and its readers – not to a third party. We don’t run copies of letters sent to other people.
4. Be civil. Sarcasm can be effective, but don’t overdo it. You can criticize, but avoid highly personal attacks.
5. Letters on abortion and similar perennially divisive topics aren’t accepted unless they respond directly to news events and add something new to the debate.
6. Try again. We receive far more letters than we have room to publish. If your letter isn’t published, try again on another topic.
7. At election time, remember we don’t run letters just endorsing a political candidate. Letters discussing the candidates’ stands on election issues are more likely to make the cut.
8. Please use your own name or two initials and your last name. No anonymous letters or “pen names” can be used.