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Campaign letters: How to write them

July 08, 2002

Campaign letters: How to write them



The filing deadlines have passed and citizens know who will be running in the 2002 elections. Between now and then, much will be broadcast and written about these races. Before the contests, we'd like to ask for our readers' help.

Every election year, on the day before the polls open, readers fax, e-mail or hand-deliver letters endorsing or condemning one of the candidates.

There is almost no chance that any of these will make it into print, though we try our best to get every election-related letter into print. But there comes a point at which we run out of space - and time - so please write early.

And as stated on every weekday editorial page, The Herald-Mail does not run anonymous letters or those signed with "pen names."

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There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the most important is that when the practice was allowed more than 20 years ago, many readers assumed that The Herald-Mail editors made up those letters. If you have an opinion to express, please sign your name.

Another tip: Get to the point quickly. We recommend letters be 250 words or less. Lengthier letters must wait longer for space to become available, because they take up so much more of it. In our experience, the longer the letter, the fewer readers will get through it.

If you're pointing out a candidate's negative points, cite your sources for what you're saying, whether they're Herald-Mail articles, minutes of meetings or something else. In fairness to the candidates, we have to make sure that serious charges are accurate and citing sources makes that easier.

Finally, if you feel a candidate has done or said something wrong, say that. Do not say that the candidate is evil or stupid. Criticize ideas, not personalities, because when the elections are over, it will be easier to get citizens to work together if they feel their candidate got a fair shake.

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