The letter to the editor is a miniature literary form like the haiku, and one more transient than the blog post. I have written a great many over the years; no-one taught me, I believe that no university or technical college teaches the art that I have acquired "by doing".
When you write to the editor you are constrained in time; your letter must be promptly relevant to a published letter or article. You are constrained in subject; you must rehearse the points raised and your own must be relevant to them. You are constrained in space to a paragraph or so, and you are equally constrained in style. Admittedly a smaller newspaper which I read in Tauranga has taken to publishing text messages with all their barbarous orthography intact, but a letter to an august organ such as the New Zealand Herald, with a circulation of over 500,000, must be a regular English prose composition (though if you can't quite manage that but still have something to say, the sub-editor may be generous with their aid).
Grandstanding, quirkiness, abuse, bare-faced flouting of logic, use of the word teh, substituting $ for S, multiplication of the letter K, obscenities, gratuitous offensiveness, and all the other tools of the blogger's trade will not be countenanced by the ladies and gentlemen of the press.
My recently published letter was in response to one on the subject "Tackling Obesity" by one Peter Davis. It was reasonable enough and noted as I have done the sad decline in our once-great nation's health. The writer wondered if our armed forces might one day run out of healthy recruits. My first impulse was to respond that, obesity epidemic or not, the New Zealand defense forces will always be able to find the 18 or so recruits they need each year from a population of 4,405,200 at last count. However, I decided to drop the cheap joke to focus on a better target, a reference to eating too much and not exercising enough as causes of obesity. Really one can build a great deal around a light slap at this notion.
This is my letter as it was published on Monday, May 13th:
Perhaps it is the declining quality of food - particularly the substituting of cheap starches, sugars and oils for nourishing fare - which is more than anything responsible for the declining quality of health in this area.
Perhaps it is the declining quality of food, i.e. the substituting of cheap starches, sugars and oils for nourishing fare, that is more than anything responsible for the declining quality of New Zealanders' health in this area.