Thinking about writing to the editor? Here’s how


Fran Ostendorf, EditorRecently, I’ve been asked many questions about letters to the editor and contributors’ columns (op-eds). We love when our readers take enough interest in our content to write to us. We also love getting feedback, and we value the diverse viewpoints of our community.

Feedback, both positive and negative, helps a newspaper become a better publication. But we also have some rules, which were put into place a number of years ago to preserve the pages of The Voice as a place for contributors to express opinions and offer information in a civil way.

Our letters policy, available for all to read on the first opinion page of every issue of the paper, caps letters at 250 words. In the last year, we’ve allowed up to 300 words, after looking at policies elsewhere and considering the letters we have received.

If you send us a letter that is longer than 300 words, you will get it back with a request to cut it to the stated limit. That has nothing to do with the letter’s contents, but simply the length. You can easily check the length yourself by typing your letter into a word processing program and looking at the word count. If you use a typewriter, a full page of double-spaced typing is about 250 words.

If you are submitting a letter to the editor by email, please label it as such in the subject line so we immediately know it is a letter to the editor. The editor’s inbox gets many emails – you want to take sure your letter is easy to spot. And be sure to include your name, town or city of residence, and contact information. We do not print contact information, but we must have it to authenticate the letter and should we have questions.

We take seriously our role as a place for civil dialogue. Make sure your letter contains creditable facts, does not quote material that’s copyrighted from other publications (which we cannot reprint), does not include live links to other websites (they go nowhere in a printed publication) and does not slander anyone.

Remember, the letter is your opinion. It should be written in that manner. You are speaking for yourself. If more than one person signs the letter, then the letter speaks for the group. Letters usually address articles in the paper or events in the community.

Contributor’s columns, often called op-eds, address issues of general interest to our readership. They are longer, 500 to 800 words. They are still the reader’s opinion and can be written from a first person point of view, but should still be backed by facts. Since we are part of a nonprofit organization, we cannot advocate for or endorse political candidates.

The Voice has published op-ed articles on a wide variety of topics: politics, arts, Israel, religion, community. We hope to continue this policy and encourage you, our readers, to submit these longer pieces for consideration.

As with all material sent to the newspaper, we may edit pieces for publication or refuse publication, at our discretion. This is the policy of every newspaper. We take this responsibility seriously and do not practice it lightly.

We welcome articles that educate, illuminate, start conversations and further civil discourse – and look forward to hearing from you soon!