Becoming involved…

So, you ride your bike to work. You feel good because you are saving money in gas, you are not polluting and you are in better shape and mood (I can go on and on..). One of the great things about being a Commute by Bike blogger is that I can convey my ideas and opinions (popular or not) to fellow bike commuters. Besides this great blog, a few of us have been featured in newspapers, websites and newsletters. We hope that we are making a difference in our own way. So, what about you? How can you make a difference? I will start posting some tips about how you can make a difference and have your voice heard.

Here’s the first tip: Writing a letter to the editor:

# Express your thoughts and positions as clearly and concisely as possible. Use as simple words as possible. Short word, short sentences, short paragraphs make for easier reading. Editors usually prefer letters of no more than 200 or 250 words, although longer letters may be accepted if they are thought to have sufficient reader interest.

# Confine every letter to only one issue. It should be timely and newsworthy.

# Carefully plan your first sentence. Aim to make it short and interesting.Especially if you communicating to criticize, it is often desirable to start with a note of appreciation, agreement or praise about some related issue.

# If you write to criticize, begin with a word of appreciation, agreement or praise.

# Avoid violent language. A calm, constructive presentation of your thought is more persuasive than ranting and more likely to be published — which is the real objective. It is possible to be frank and friendly.

# Help supply the truth that may be omitted or slanted in reporting the news or editorializing on it. Give argument(s) to support the position you are advocating. Focus on the topic and the key points you wish to make. If there are a large number of points that can be made about the topic you may want to hone in on the two or three strongest arguments.

# Relevant personal experiences and personal anecdotes are very persuasive, so include them.

# Don’t hesitate to use a relevant personal experience to illustrate a point.

# If there is a problem that requires remedial action, show your willingness to work for a solution. If possible, request a specific action from the official.

# Bring more judgement to bear upon the issue confronting the community, the nation and the world. Appeal to the reader’s sense of fair play, justice and mercy.

# Don’t be merely critical; end your letter with some constructive suggestion and a pleasant and positive tone.

# You can make appropriate changes in you letter and send it to editors of other newspapers. Always send first copies, never carbons. (Many newspapers have a policy against publishing letters which are also sent to other papers.)

# Always sign your name and give your address. You can use a pen name or initials for publication, but the editor must know the source of the letter.

# Don’t give up looking for your letter too soon. It may not appear for two weeks or longer. Don’t be discouraged if your letter is not printed. It reached the editor and that is worth something. Try again when it is appropriate. Even if only one in ten is accepted, you have reached an audience large enough to make your effort worth while. You score will probably be better than that.


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