Fireworks Safety Letter, City of Lugoff, South Carolina


This is the opening paragraph to a letter published by The State, a South Carolina newspaper. In this letter, the fire chief of Lugoff, South Carolina warns residents of the danger of fireworks and purports to add a few tips.

However, the opening paragraph of the letter contains a few things which are a bit uncomfortable to read, especially given the context of the letter.

Technical writing is all about context and audiences, and this letter is directed at a very specific audience. However, it shouldn't contain sentiments like "this blessing" and "this freedom we enjoy is not free." These are well understood within the context of the holiday. These things do not belong in an official letter from a community official. They are the sorts of things that could certainly be published on the Facebook or Google+ page for the fire department.

In a signed, official letter about public safety, the matter of public safety does not need the added context provided by those sentiments. This can make the official in question seem sort of fundamentalist or unconcerned about the actual matter at hand. Anything that goes out with a signature under an official letterhead should be heavily scrutinized.

Some of the bullet items are confusing and can be misread:

  • Fireworks can ignite clothes on fire-keep them away from your body

Keep what away from the body? The fireworks or the clothes?

Clarity matters, especially in an official letter.