Sly: Have an opinion? Write on!

I have just three words for the people who submit letters to The Bee:

Please keep writing!

We received 4,936 letters to the editor in 2009 and published 3,050, almost 62 percent of them. We'd like to match or beat those numbers in 2010.

As regular readers know, we reserve this space for the views of area residents and, on occasion, for the views of people responding specifically to a local story, column or editorial in The Bee. Some readers are occasionally offended by a letter. We try to balance civility with our strong belief in free speech.

Every day we publish the guidelines, but let me elaborate on a couple:

The limit for letters is 200 words. If you send one that's 200 to 250 words, we'll shorten it. If you send us a letter that's much longer than that, we'll send it back and ask you to trim it. Please note that we usually have a basket full of long letters; thus, those that are concise or even terse -- say 50 words or less -- are likely to get into print more quickly.

Letters must focus on public issues. Those do not include complaints against the mechanic who didn't fix your car, your neighbor's barking dog or the teacher who failed to see your child's brilliance. Public issues do include all sorts of government operations, community behavior and things such as gangs and the H1N1 epidemic.

You must use your real name -- first and last or two initials and a last name. If you want to be anonymous, then you are welcome to post on, where you can either be anonymous or use an online moniker.

Submit your own views -- not something that you copied and pasted off the Internet. And please don't forward something you received as an e-mail from someone else who received it from someone else, etc.

Before submitting your letter, please take a moment to read through it a second time. In fact, I'd urge you to read it aloud to yourself to see if your argument is logical and your sentences are complete.

Because of the volume of letters we receive, we limit writers to one published letter per 30 days.

We still accept hand-written and typed letters, sent to Letters, The Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352, but we prefer e-mail. The address is

Thank you. We hope to hear from you in 2010.

Sly is editor of The Bee's Opinions pages. Contact her at 578-2317 or