Letter To the Editor

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Ed: There has been strong support for the use of real names on Chatbox and we enclose below an example from Adrian Farrow and so we will be taking this on board as we move to the next version of AOL.

Dear Ed,

I applaud the suggestion that contributors to AOL should come out from behind the masks of their nicknames.

In an age before the advent of instant communication through social media, a 'letter to the editor' required both time and effort: time to sit down with a sheet of paper and a pen and the effort of writing (in a sufficiently legible form) the thoughts and ideas you wanted to put into print. There was no spell-checker or auto-correct software so when you made that first mark on the blank page, it was the start of the finished article- unless you were prepared to submit your piece with all its crossings-out, amendments and corrections on display like the workings of the solution to a schoolroom maths puzzle.

So, far from shouting our thoughts into the ether in the digital process that we all now take for granted, the very act of writing the letter required the author to think about and refine what they wanted to say into the piece for publication.

It seems to me that the result was all the more considered, thoughtful and possibly more concise.

But in the pre-digital age, there was yet another step- the posting of the letter. That gave rise to the 'top drawer' or 'sleep on it' phenomenon. It gave the opportunity to reflect on what had been committed to paper- a chance to check whether the anger, irritation or indignation which prompted the letter in the first place was truly justified.

We can't turn the clock back, nor would we want to. Social media and the internet have brought many benefits, and I own up to being in a number of Facebook and Whatsapp groups and I am on Twitter too. But the digital pages of AOL, happily, have not yet descended into such quick-fire, conversational, emoji-loaded banter.

I think that the simple suggestion of submitting pieces under the true names of the contributors will bring back some of that reflection which pen and paper letter writing involved.

The editors can always use the 'name and address supplied' formula to protect privacy and security in appropriate cases.

Instead of letters, let his author write articles in the voice of the humorous and witty Colonel Blimp, where that character's thoughts can be read as they were intended- as entertainment.

I vote for considered opinion rather than reaction. The watchword should be- would I take the mike from Ralph on quiz night in the Lord C and say this to the assembled crowd? If the answer is yes, use your own name and press 'send'. If no, don't bother.

Adrian Farrow