Practice free speech in 2013

Free speech about your important ideas is most effective when those ideas are presented in a respectful, concise way that everyone is able to read. All the readers should be able to see, read and think about them. Your ideas may or may not be new to others and they can have a good or bad effect on them, depending on how it's presented.

Civil, well-reasoned letters by local writers who have followed the letter-writing guidelines rise to the top of the stack. Here are some lighthearted but true tips for getting your submission published in 2013:

Include your name, address and phone number. Failure to tell me who you are and how to contact you is the top reason letters don't get published. Opinions are more powerful when those who espouse them are willing to stand behind them publicly.

Don't send a letter that is anonymous or threatening in any way. Those letters will NOT get published or even acknowledged.

Adhere to the 350-word limit. It offers sufficient space in which to state your opinion and support it. I may choose to shorten letters that are only slightly over the limit, but those who want to see their work published should understand that the responsibility for meeting the word limit lies with the writer.

Don't fudge on the facts. Don't use profanity. Don't call people names.

Avoid recreational nastiness. Play nice.

If you want to write a guest column, call me and we'll talk about the criteria. You'll need a unique perspective and some credentials to back it up.

Please use capital letters and punctuation. Editing a letter with none of either requires a lot of guesswork and I may guess wrong.

Pretend your prospective readers aren't anonymous. They aren't, actually. They're your neighbors. They have lives very like yours, their own opinions, and feelings too. Belittling them won't bring them around to your point of view. Write persuasively, not abusively.

Remember, please, what you're trying to accomplish with your letter and your opinion. Free speech is a privilege that we guard as precious.

Jeanne Archambeault

Mancos Times editor