In his letter to the editor this week, Dale Martin is correct to take the paper to task for failing to follow its own policy regarding personal attacks in submitted letters.

Although I disagree with his view that a letter in last week's paper damaged his reputation, I do think there is an argument that the paper allowed the letter to veer into personal issues that are best left out of these pages.

The purpose of the letters to the editor section is to allow the community to debate and discuss subjects of local interest, and to educate each other.

It's also a place to clarify a position that, perhaps, you felt was reported inaccurately elsewhere in the paper.

There isn't much reporting on the Opinion Page. The paper's editorial should be researched and based on a perception of facts known, but other writing on this page and in columns and letters elsewhere in the paper is the opinion of the writer and should be judged as such.

Above all, it's a place for civil discourse, and I intend to keep it that way.

Some of the letters in this week's paper included words that I didn't think were necessary and I deleted them.

Calling someone names or comparing a person's features to old fruit doesn't do anyone any good.

Letters of thanks, which are certainly appreciated by the person (or people) they are directed to, aren't much for starting conversations and unless they are somehow extraordinary, won't appear on the Opinion Page.

Instead, letters expressing more graditude than opinion will be directed to the advertising department.

Since the subject has come up, here's a little insight into how I approach the editing part of my job.

No. 1 is not to intrude so much as to change the writer's voice and meaning. The writer's voice and meaning are paramount. In this regard, the writer has to take a risk and trust me.

There have been mistakes, I admit, but I do take seriously the responsibility of not getting in the way of the writer.

After that, I use my ear, an Associated Press stylebook and a dictionary.

I will change puncuation, captilization and spelling mistakes and other such mistakes, unless necessary for understanding, and will lowercase any words written in all caps and delete quote marks when unnecessary.

Redundancy will be cut in order to make sure the reader understands the point trying to be made without having to be hammered into submission.

I will also delete unnecessary detail that doesn't stay at least reasonably close to the subject at hand.

For example, a writer included in a letter details about how long it takes the mail to get from one city to another in Grant County. I could see what they were trying to say, but it wasn't necessary to print such stuff to get their point across.

If I don't understand something in a letter, I call the writer for clarification.

If somehow against all my best efforts the editing of a letter changes the writer's meaning, I will reprint the letter as the writer intended.

•••

Speaking of changes, I was on a diet, but darn if I didn't fall off it this week.

First at the Roadkill Chili Feed, where Elaine Smith's cornbread salad called to me, and then two nights later when the siren song of Wilma Bauer's sourdough pancakes lured me to the Mt. Vernon Grange Hall. Yum.

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