It's a little-known fact -- and a relatively inconsequential one -- that I got my start at The Washington Post writing letters to the editor. Oh, I was a regular little pest, criticizing Tom Shales (!), defending Tony Kornheiser (!!), snippily correcting spelling errors, doing whatever I could to get some ink in the A section of my hometown paper.
I had a half-dozen or so letters to the editor published between 1985 and 1989, when I finally had to cease and desist because I'd started writing for The Post instead of to it. Not quite Nelson Marans numbers but something to be proud of nonetheless.
I still read the letters, of course, and what I love best -- besides their passion, their breadth of knowledge and their range of viewpoints -- is the language the writers employ to establish their bona fides.
You know what I mean: "As a. . . ." You can be sure that whatever follows "As a . . ." will put in perspective, with amazing specificity, the credentials of the writer.
Here are some actual examples culled from the letters page of The Post:
As a concerned citizen. . . .
As a concerned voter. . . .
As a concerned voter in Calvert County. . . .
As a concerned citizen and writer and filmmaker. . . .
As a concerned and involved mother. . . .
As a concerned parent and a juvenile justice professional. . . .
As a concerned parent, property owner, business owner and proud citizen of St. Mary's. . . .
As a concerned Okinawan. . . .
As a graduate of the Calvert school system. . . .
As a former public school teacher. . . .
As a former teacher and a concerned parent of a Virginia high school student. . . .
As a parent of two top-10 graduates of Fairfax County Public Schools and a current senior ranking first in her class. . . .
As a former elected official and longtime civic activist. . . .
As former chief of staff to the Republican leader in the Virginia House of Delegates. . . .
As a former member, and chairman, of the Alexandria School Board. . . .
As a former resident of Arlington County now living in Portland, Ore. . . .
As a male and a former intern (or "extern," as we were known) in the Women's Center's program for graduate students in counseling. . . .
As a former political prisoner and a current human-rights activist working in exile. . . .
As a four-year customer and supporter of the Community Spokes program and a retired school social worker. . . .
As a nuclear engineer and a graduate of Adm. Hyman Rickover's nuclear program. . . .
As a reformed smoker. . . .
As a retired lawyer. . . .
As a retired teacher with 33 years of experience in four school divisions. . . .
As a veteran and former CIA counterterrorism specialist. . . .
As an educator, a veteran, a Virginian, an American and, yes, a Southerner. . . .
As a longtime federal employee who is heavily invested in the Thrift Savings Plan. . . .
As a longtime resident of Cathedral Heights, a business person with investments in D.C., a user of the Crescent Trail and a member of the Washington Canoe Club. . . .
As a longtime friend and supporter of our newly elected governor. . . .
As a proud new parent. . . .
As a proud Virginian whose ancestors fought in the Army of Northern Virginia. . . .
As an African American and a Washingtonian. . . .
As a current Virginian. . . .
As an Alexandria resident. . . .
As a regular user of sidewalks along Jones Bridge Road in Bethesda. . . .
As a regular customer of J.R.'s for more than 20 years. . . .
As a frequent Metro user and Terps fan. . . .
As a frequent contributor to the Letters to the Editor section of your paper. . . .