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Thanks to the upcoming election, readers have asked if we would publish their column-length opinion pieces. We’re always looking for new local columnists who can consistently contribute to the opinion page, so here are a few guidelines if you would like to try.

We ask that pieces be in the range of 500 to 550 words, preferably at the lower end.

We want our opinion pages to be more than all Trump all the time. We need readers’ opinions about state and local issues, too.

We ask that local columns focus mainly on local topics and local issues. They may be based on national or international matters, but in that case they need to have a strong local angle. We’ve asked our regular contributors to do this, too. If a local person wants to write on a national topic, he or she should have a strong personal connection to whatever is being discussed or some background that provides authority and knowledge.

One important consideration is that columns must be more than lists of generalities. We need details. Expertise. Persuasiveness.

Thursday’s newspaper carried a piece written by local columnist Diane Mufson about her concern a new COVID-19 vaccine would be released for trials prematurely. She used her near-miss with the drug Thalidomide to make her point. It was a national issue with a local and personal concern.

Tell us why your party will do better for West Virginia or the Tri-State. Give us a reason to be for something, not against someone.

The bottom line: Focus on the reader, not on your own anger. Tell a story. Stick to your main point; don’t wander all over the place. Be unique. Tell us something the rest of us don’t know.

We would rather run a 500-word piece from a local business person about their experience with COVID-19 shutdowns than another national piece criticizing a national politician. We want to hear from teachers, parents and others about the ever-changing situation in education right now.

We can’t publish everything, but we want to publish more, whether the writers are liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, young or old ...

Local columns must follow the same standards as other content in The Herald-Dispatch. They must be the work of the person submitting them. They must be accurate and subject to fact checks. They should address issues, not persons. They must not defame anyone.

And we can’t promise to run a submitted column on a particular day.

We aren’t likely to publish a column-length piece promoting a political candidate unless we solicit those from the candidates themselves.

If you submit a column, we will need your name, address and contact information. Street addresses and phone numbers won’t be published, but we need them.

We reserve the right to edit material for length, factual accuracy, clarity and other needs. We also reserve the right to reject any submission.

These are the basic rules. There are others, but these should get you started if you’re interested.

If you have questions, send me an email, and we can talk about them. Earlier in the week is better, but write anytime.

Jim Ross is development and opinion editor of The Herald-Dispatch. His email is

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