Now that we’re in the last two months of this contentious election season, The Union Democrat has enacted some general rules about op-ed pieces and letters to the editor.

This is necessary to ensure fairness and to maintain the editorial page’s role as a marketplace of ideas. That means offering our readers a page featuring a wide range of voices.

First, op-eds on individual candidates or by candidates will not be accepted. The reason is simple — no one person’s voice is superior to others. The opinion of an individual on a political candidate can be expressed in 300 words or less in a Letter to the Editor.

Mark Twain is oft-quoted for apologizing to a friend for his letter being too long. He said he didn’t have time to write a short one. I acknowledge and advance the idea that it is difficult to say what you mean in a few words, but 300 is firm for election-related opinion.

Op-eds are intended to be measured, expert opinion on a variety of subjects. Frankly, I’ve been too lax on apportioning that space. This strengthening of the rules will continue beyond the election season.

Giving someone the prominence and length of an op-ed exalts that opinion. For some time, The Union Democrat itself has not endorsed candidates. Handing over that space to others for endorsements is not the proper use of our editorial page.

Second, we will publish no more than one letter per person on a particular candidate. This is a departure from our usual policy of writers being allowed to write every two weeks on whatever they want to write about. We have several who take us up on this generous offer, and, certainly, we would have writers who would beat the drum for their candidate that often as well.

Repetition does not contribute to the goal of being a marketplace of ideas and voices. It also does not advance the cause of good writing, which can be summed up in two words: Be interesting. Make points others have not advanced. Write about your experience with the candidate, relate an anecdote that shows what kind of person they are. Tell our readers – and your fellow voters – something they don’t already know.

We have only so much space between now and Nov. 6 and want to ensure that everyone who wants to add a voice to the conversation has that opportunity.

All election-related letters must be received by Oct. 23.

Lyn Riddle is editor of The Union Democrat. Contact her at lriddle@uniondemocrat.com or 209-588-4541.

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