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February 23, 2010

You have less than a 4% chance of getting a letter published in the Washington Post — but you can improve your odds

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Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander gave a short course in his February 21, 2010 column.

In a nutshell:

• 3,900 of about 109,000 letters received annually are published by the Post

• Brevity matters. Guidelines specify 200 words max, but Letters Editor Michael Larabee said "150 is better" and "if you can do it in 100 words, wonderful."

• Timeliness is critical. "The volume of letters on some topics is so great that [Larabee] often selects the first well-written one."

• Be sharp but not slashing.

• Friday afternoon is the best time to submit. "Fewer arrive then, when Larabee often is searching for timely ones to fill the Monday or Tuesday editorial pages."

Now here's a tip for those who prefer a much higher rate of success than 4%.

Like, nearly 100%.

Does that work for you?

'Cause it sure does for me.

OK then, here's the deal: forget about letters to the editor and turn your attention to corrections.

Quick, dirty, and if you're correct you're almost guaranteed to see your work in the paper within the next few days.

In the past three and a half weeks I've had three corrections published in the New York Times, one in the Washington Post, one in The Financial Times and one in the Wall Street Journal.

What fun.

"Yo joe, what about 'sharp but not slashing,' huh? In your letter up top to the Wall Street Journal?"

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Never mind.

February 23, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

Truth: When I was in my misspent youth, I had letters published in Time Magazine, Glamour Magazine, and Newsweek Magazine. I bought several copies of each rag, cut the letters out of a few and carried the clippings around in my wallet for a couple years. Obviously, something got me riled up. Thing is, now, as hard as I wrack my brains, I can NOT remember what the HELL they were all about, or what got me adequately energized to compose letters coherent enough to get published in high-circulation mags!

Posted by: Flautist | Feb 23, 2010 3:53:09 PM

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