As of Saturday, May 18, you may have noticed a new letters policy appearing in the left column of this page. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. Understanding the policy and submitting letters with the policy in mind will help expedite the process of getting your letters into print. When we say we encourage your participation, we meant it.

What’s different?

The previous policy allowed us to reject letters that we deemed inappropriate. This policy includes more specific language about what any reasonable person might consider inappropriate. But a general rule of thumb is if your letter attacks a person — rather than his or her position — it’s likely will it not conform to our policy. And therefore it may well be deemed inappropriate.

This policy sets a limit of 300 words per letter. The previous policy had no word limit.

This policy limits the author to one letter per month on any topic. The previous policy limited an author to one letter every 30 days per topic.

If your letter references published content, this policy asks that you include the headline and publication date.

Why are you changing the policy and why did you decide to make these changes in particular?

This policy is consistent with those used at many U.S. newspapers, including other newspapers owned by our parent company, Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. It represents, in our collective experience, a best practice for ensuring the healthy discussion of diverse perspectives while maintaining a high level of discourse that preserves the dignity of people in the community.

The change in policy is a response in part to your comments about our application of the previous policy. It’s also the result of our re-evaluation of the policy after we made observations about recent trends in letters to the editor.

We know from talking to you that most people in our community can handle having their opinions challenged, but no one enjoys finding himself under personal attack. Personal retribution should not be the price you pay for taking the time to contribute to this page.

Why doesn’t this policy say you’ll check the facts in the letters you print?

We do some fact checking but do not have the resources to do full fact checks. We rely on letter writers and readers to speak up when they notice mistakes. We have published corrections on misinformation in letters to the editor.

If I don’t attack a person, is it still possible my letter could be rejected as inappropriate?

Yes, under some circumstances. But if you’re stating an opinion about an issue in the news and you are not expressing yourself inappropriately, feel free to submit your letter. Just because your opinion is not widely held in our community, that doesn’t mean we’ll consider it inappropriate according to our policy.

Will you let me know if you’re rejecting my letter and why?

Yes. We also will let you know if your letter can be edited, either for length or content, so that it meets the new policy.

Does this policy affect everyone — or just those who criticize The Item or disagree with its editorial positions?

Yes, everyone.

If you have questions or comments, email me at ltrow@itemonline.com; call me at 295-5407 Ext. 3025; or drop by The Item at 1409 10th St. during business hours.