The power of speech, free or otherwise | Letters

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The former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, left, with Premier Li Keqiang, struggles to keep awake during Xi Jinping’s three-and-a-half-hour speech to the 19th party congress in Beijing. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

What a thought-provoking article from Gaby Hinsliff (If millennials are wary of free speech, who can blame them?, 20 October). Defending the right to free speech has never been about hurling abuse or inciting violence. It’s about keeping debate and discussion open. Trolls, on the contrary, aim to frighten people into silence and close down freedom of expression. Controlling this online is hard, but is no excuse for giving in to it on campus. She is right to call for help for universities, not fines, in maintaining this precious basis of democracy.
Bridget Elton
London

• As Lincoln showed at Gettysburg, in democracies the length of a speech is often in inverse proportion to the amount of skill and preparation given to it. In authoritarian regimes such as China, the reverse usually applies. All power to John Crace (Digested week, 21 October) to get this message across to our politicians.
Geoff Reid
Bradford

• Having grown up in Ireland, I sound the “r” at the end of words as the Scot Ian Jack does. The English tend to omit it (Opinion, 21 October). I am often stumped by crossword clues where the setter assumes the solver is English. An example is the use of “er” to indicate hesitation. This sounds like “err” to me.
Cyril Duff
London

• Now that the forecasters have dramatised unremarkable winter weather with names, we’re doing the same with the common cold. I’m currently being battered by Cold Aguecheek, and my wife thinks she’s starting with Cold Bardolph.
Michael McManus
Leeds

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