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Are You Irritated? Angry? Insulted?

It's amazing and sometimes amusing to watch opinions fly back and forth across the Worldwide Web. These postings are quick and passionate, and not always well researched or reasoned. To get that, one can still turn to an enduring and delightful institution — the classic letter to the editor in the newspaper.

In such carefully crafted missives, sharp-eyed readers flag errors and oversights by journalists and other letter writers, and deliver stinging retorts, often laced with outrage.

In a recent edition of the Washington Post, for instance, one reader from Vermont huffed and puffed about a story in which the Post identified one John Mercer Langston of Ohio as the first black American elevated to public office by popular vote.

Nay, nay, the Vermonter begged to differ. The nation's first black elected official was a fellow who won a seat in the Vermont legislature in 1836, 19 years before Langston took office in Ohio.

Another letter writer that day haughtily corrected the newspaper's misuse of the term radio transmitter, grumping that an obviously incompetent Post reporter had confused transmitters with receivers. Someone else took the paper to task for a cute story about driving a car while barefoot. Foolish and dangerous, don't you know?!

Weeds on the National Mall. The survival of ancient Sanskrit. The difference between deaf interpreters and interpreters for the deaf.All prompted people to take fingers to keyboard and vent to the Washington Post. And those are just the letters that the paper printed. Very often the unpublished letters to the editor also find their way to reporters whose stories the readers are complaining about.

So pay no mind to the common complaint that Americans don't write letters much any more. We certainly do — just not as often to each other!