Writing to make a difference
Have you ever felt compelled to speak up on an issue?
In addition to presenting a speech to an audience, writing a letter or email is another way to express your opinion to make a difference.
There are letters of protest, letters to the editor, response letters and thank you letters in appreciation. All of which can make a difference.
Letters of protest
Well-written letters of protest tend to be taken more seriously than an email and they are more effective in obtaining a response.
Think about the issue which concerns you when you have that ‘fired up’ feeling. Know your subject. Know your purpose. Be inspired and confident to write.
Perhaps you cannot stop thinking about issues associated with gambling, sports betting on television, safe schools, advertising, alcohol or drugs or government policy.
To draft, draft and redraft a letter or email to obtain a well-constructed persuasive opinion with supporting evidence requires planning.
- Who are you addressing?
Find the appropriate person and direct your letter to that person specifically.
- What is your opening sentence / paragraph?
- Start with what has prompted you to write.
- Jot down some points for the reason for this letter. This is your purpose.
- You may wish to mention your background such as education, training and occupation, involvement in the industry or personal experience. This is to show you are a reasonable person.
- What do you include in the main content?
- You need to explain the issues with the current situation. Persuasive opinion requires facts, statistics and other supporting evidence. Do your homework. Share your experience and feelings.
- Lay out the actions you require. Consider if you are requesting the matter to be banned, eliminated or changed. Or, are you offering alternatives and their benefits. Be positive with possible solutions. Clearly state your opinions and the details. Tackle the issue, not the person.
- What do you include in your closing paragraph/sentence?
- Conclude with a question, encouraging a response or at least some ongoing thought; or
- Restate your request; or
- Just thank them
- Thank them for taking the time to read your letter.
- Request a reply from the recipient.
- Sign your letter and include full address, phone number and email.
It is a good idea to give your permission to enter your letter, unedited, into the public records.
- Some tips:
Quality, not quantity, is important
Be firm and direct using polite and constructive language
Don’t demand, insult or berate the recipient
Don’t name-call or threat
Abuse and rudeness will get you nowhere
Be reasonable in your approach
Type the letter if your handwriting is not neat and legible. Make sure you use correct grammar and spelling.
Realise your biases and the biases of the person, government or organisation. To change opinions, you need to speak their language to give them the chance of accepting your arguments. This means, know your audience.
Read your letter aloud to hear how it sounds
- Be supportive
If your request or advice was followed, send a thank you letter and show your appreciation. If your advice was considered although did not come to fruition, then send a thank you letter for trying to make a change.
Letters to the editor
Generally letters to the editor are not more than 250 words so keep to the required stated length or shorter.
Letters that make a difference can be positive or negative; agreeing or disagreeing with a statement or the written word. Your intention is to persuade others to take a specific action or believe in your opinion.
How to write a letter to the editor
- Open with a simple salutation – ‘To the Editor of the Guardian’ or just ‘To the Editor’
- If you know the editor’s name then use it as this will increase the likelihood of your letter being read. ‘Dear Mr. Johnson’
- As in a speech, grab the attention of the audience. Tell the readers what you are writing about so they want to read more
- Explain what the letter is about. Be concise
- Explain why the issue is important . Remember the reader may not know the background of the issue or the interest in the matter. Use plain language and be succinct
- Provide evidence to support your opinions
- Explain what needs to be done
- Keep the letter clear, brief and to the point
- Sign the letter
- Acknowledge the letter you are responding to, including its heading
- Make your statement
- Provide your name.
An example is:
In response to Letters to the Editor “Open the Door”, I agree with Robert Williams, that Australia should open the gate to Hong Kong people seeking refuge.
Concetta Rossi, Mill Park, Victoria.
Thank you letters
A thank you letter is one of showing appreciation. Your letter will start with a salutation, then a ‘thank you’ with some specifics. Remember to be sincere, and personalise each letter. Keep it brief.
In the work place, another business or an organisation, edit, edit and edit it so it looks professional. This means it is well written and error free.
In signing you can say:
Thank you again,
Sincerely / Best wishes / In appreciation
Then sign you name, and your position if appropriate.