News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

January 7, 2013

MAX JONES: There are simple ways to get your letter published

TERRE HAUTE — As an old year turns into a new year, I am inclined to look back and assess the newspaper’s performance on behalf of readers the past 12 months. When I do, the volume and quality of reader letters we publish always amazes me.

Every year for as long as I have been overseeing T-S opinion pages (22 years now and counting), our Readers’ Forum has published somewhere between 1,100 and 1,200 submissions. Some years have produced more, but never less. Several hundred more letters are submitted but not published.

The volume and variety of these published letters is undoubtedly one of the reasons that opinion pages remain highly popular content among readers, not only here but at newspapers everywhere.

Of course, there is no shortage of opinions for consumption these days, thanks to the Internet. But these tend to be on broad topics rather than local ones, and Internet opinion sites are loaded with anonymous posters whose heavy-handed and sometimes uncivil behavior chases away reasonable voices.

Newspaper letters columns, however, rarely, if ever, allow writers to remain anonymous. And it’s the T-S policy to decline publication of material deemed uncivil or containing personal attacks. That doesn’t mean the discussion can’t be passionate and robust. In our letters columns, it often is.

So, I’m looking forward to another year of vigorous debate and lively exchanges in the Readers’ Forum. And for those who may want to get involved for the first time in 2013, or those who just need a reminder, I offer some tips on putting together a letter that increases the likelihood that it will be published.

• Always provide us with your full name, address and a phone number for verification purposes. Only your name and city of residence will be published with the letter.

•  Using email (opinion@trib

star.com) is the preferred method for receiving letters. It allows us to publish your comments more quickly. We accept letters via fax or mail, but because we have to re-type them, there could be a delay.

•  Keep your submissions brief and on point. Space on our pages is tight, and readers are more apt to read shorter letters than longer ones. While there are no strict word limits, please follow these guidelines to enhance your chances of getting published: Less than 400 words should be your goal. Shorter is ALWAYS better.

•  Readers know that we do consider and publish longer letters. But it’s unlikely we will publish any submission with more than 700 words. I repeat: brief is best.

•  We do not accept letters that include customer-service complaints about businesses, or letters that air personal grievances with any person or entity, public or private.

•  Avoid using web addresses in letters, especially longer ones. They take up valuable space and provide little useful information.

Adhere to these guidelines, and your letter will most likely be printed, usually within a week after we receive it. Keep in mind that the most common reasons letters we receive are not published is because of length, failure of the author to include required personal information, or they are no longer timely when space becomes available.

The T-S has great letter writers who keep things vibrant on our opinion pages. We would like for even more of our readers to join in the discussion.

Max Jones can be reached at 812-231-4336, or by email at max.jones@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter, @TribStarMax.

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