Readers Speak

The long and short of it

Dear Editor,

Regional editor John D’Agostino told readers on July 25 that letters to the Times Observer are important. Here’s how to get people to read them.

Short is smart. A half a column, better yet a third of a column, almost guarantees people will read it. Every piece of information in the newspaper is part of a contest for attention, and the reader is the judge. If you want your letter to win, write short.

How do you write short? Make sure you have a point you can state in one simple sentence. Allow that sentence to guide your writing. And keep your sentences and paragraphs short.

Writing short means every word is necessary. Which words aren’t pulling their load? Eliminate them. What sentences are repetitive? Execute them. What paragraphs divert readers to side issues, or are fatally flawed in other ways? Either heal them, or euthanize them. It’s perfectly legal and to your advantage.

Ask a couple of trusted friends to read your letter, but don’t ask if they like it. Instead, find out where you can improve by asking if it was easy to read… if they wanted to read past the first paragraph… if there was any place where they wanted to stop.

The smart writer can’t afford to gamble that his writing is good enough, his angle clever enough, and his content gripping enough to snag and hold the busy reader. All of that is important, but the smart writer also understands that long letters mean fewer readers. Are there exceptions? Yes, but when you consider yourself an exception, you’re probably not.

Warren County citizens have plenty of opinions, and no shortage of issues. Employment, education, elections, economic development, the environment — and that’s just the letter E! Whatever your topic, you write because you want people to read. Take this advice and thousands will. Few will bother if you don’t.

These 313 words come respectfully from:

Steve Sorensen,


Looking to churches

Dear Editor,

I would like to comment on a previous article you had in your paper about the school district wishing they had more space. They have empty buildings that they own, but they stated that some were not fit to use. It would take a lot of time and work to restore rooms in these buildings.

I would like to present an alternative that has never been mentioned. Many churches here in town have lots of classroom space. My question is why doesn’t the school district approach some of them and offer to rent out space from them?

They already have the rooms available and parking is usually very good. Just sounded a great idea.

Barry Keller,



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