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Inside The Globe

Public Editor Sylvia Stead responds to readers and gives a behind-the-scenes look

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(kzenon/Stock photo | Thinkstock | iStockphoto)
(kzenon/Stock photo | Thinkstock | iStockphoto)

The secret to getting a letter published in The Globe and Mail Add to ...

Readers often ask how to get published in The Globe and Mail letters section of the newspaper.

My advice: be short, be funny if you can or raise a new point in the debate and on top of the news.

Some of the best writing in the paper is on that page, thanks not only to our very clever letter writers, but also to a very careful selection and edit by Emilie Smith-Bowles, our letters editor. She reads hundreds of e-mails and, yes, the odd physical letter each day to choose the dozen or so that really sing.

In Emilie’s view, there are many variables that decide a letter's fate – its subject, its news value, its timing, its brevity, its construction, its being in the right place at the right time. Does it add to the discourse and debate on issues and news covered by The Globe and Mail, offer new or different information?

“There's also the intangible factor – does it light up our interest? To have the best chance at getting published, keep letters under 150 words and make them topical. Everyone loves wit, where appropriate, add it,” she said. Emilie adds that we only publish letters exclusive to The Globe and Mail.

We appreciate our readers' enthusiasm for writing and value their opinions. We do not publish all the letters, but we do read and consider them all before deciding on a cross-section that best represents our readers' diverse viewpoints, regions and interests. She also is the front line in sensing when an issue or article has really shocked or outraged our readers. On the robo-calls issue this week, for example, she received about 300 letters.

That number paled in relation to the number of readers commenting online on our robo-calls coverage. On just one day, February 29, we had many articles and videos related to robo-calling. On those, we had almost 10,000 comments published, with a large number castigating The Globe and Mail for not doing enough coverage on the issue.

But let’s turn back to the clever wit of the letter writers who were published this week. Here is a sample:

To capture Torontonians' hearts and minds, Doug Ford says, “we're going to start pounding the e-mail and pounding the robocalls.” Does this stuff just write itself or what?

Vicki Ziegler, Toronto

From in and out to out and out.

Reuel Amdur, Val-des-Monts, Que.

Did I get this right? The Conservative government believes possessing six marijuana plants deserves a minimum six months in prison, but posing as an Elections Canada official for the purpose of disrupting elections is merely “shenanigans”?

Marjorie Clark, Toronto

One really has to wonder what kind of human being would slither out of the bowels of the earth, Gollum-like, to dream up this sort of thing. It reminds me of the response someone once made to a pompous politician: I have a friend who is a politician, but don’t tell his mother. She thinks he works in a brothel.

Tony Hirons, Toronto

Memo to Israel’s Prime Minister: On your arrival in Canada Friday, should you receive a phone call telling you that the location of your meeting with Stephen Harper has been moved to Moose Jaw, hang up!

Don Macpherson, Saskatoon

Sometimes the letters take us to task for opinions they don’t share or their take on what we should have done. Here’s a delightful one below:

Your editorial (Less Is Not More – Feb. 25) makes good points about “texting.” I cannot resist, however, suggesting you hone your own skill in writing economically. I offer the following to remind us that our composition teachers taught that sometimes “less is more.”

You wrote: “has a negative impact on language skills” – seven words, 40 characters, including spaces. One could say: “adversely affects language skills” – four words, 33 characters. Or better still: “reduces language skill” – three words, 22 characters.

By the way (BTW as we’d “text” it), the words “affect” and “effect” are seldom used nowadays. If we were to rehabilitate them, we could reserve “impact” for greater emphasis and regain a good way of “shading” our meaning.

Norman Haslett, Lunenburg, N.S.

And occasionally, we get letters of praise, which believe me, we cherish:

We would like to thank Tu Thanh Ha, Adrian Morrow and Oliver Moore for their well-written article about this weekend’s tragic VIA accident (For Three Train Engineers, Railroading Was Their Life, And Their Death – Folio, Feb. 28). Our son is a VIA engineer trainee, so we are feeling the devastating effects of this loss for the VIA family. The writers’ words have paid a kind and respectful homage to three men whose lives were all about the railway and who served the public and their employer with the utmost care and professionalism.

Kim Kremzar, Ottawa

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Follow on Twitter: @SylviaStead

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