Project 2: Letters – Considering Audience and Purpose
“What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t re-read a phone call” –Liz Carpenter
“Nobody black had learned anything from the “Letter from the Birmingham Jail’ or from the “I Have a Dream’ speech. That was a revelation of white people” –Andrew Young
“Becoming an effective letter writer means analyzing each situation individually and choosing the form of correspondence accordingly.” –Scribendi, a contemporary editing and writing company
· Write two letters.
· One letter will be written to those who AGREE with you. The goal is to inspire, praise, encourage, or otherwise inspire action in those who already agree with you.
· The second letter will be written to those who DISAGREE with you. The goal here multifaceted; you may need to try to convince them of your position, to consider opposing evidence or argument, to belittle or berate them, to express kind acknowledgement of their concerns, to enforce the superiority of your own, etc.
· Example: Letter of complaint to the University Parking Office; one audience is the official parking office; this will be formal, well researched, and polite asking for an exception or change in policy. The second audience will be the general public and the anonymous parking attendant who ticketed me 3 minutes after my pass expired (to be posted on the office’s public forum) in which I rant and rage about the draconian parking laws.
· Each letter should be REAL—it needs to be able to be sent. Provide addresses, specific organization names, or any indication of the reality of the situation.
· Each letter should be a substantial length—no one line emails here.
· Each letter should be formatted appropriately.
· Both letters should be on the same topic, but directed to different audience groups.
· Both letters should be written with active and noticeable appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos.
· Both letters should establish a clear, real world outcome that you are trying to accomplish for each audience. Do not leave the audience “to decide which action is best.” This is not your goal. You must give readers a clear purpose.
· Each letter needs evidence. The type of evidence you use (studies, statistics, reputable expert opinion, personal experience) entirely depends on your purpose and target audience’s values, but it needs some kind of evidence.
· A 2 page comparative analysis of the different rhetorical choices made in the construction of the letters. What choices did you make for each audience? Why did each audience have a different need/value? How did you construct counterarguments and rebuttals effectively? How did you consider audience biases in your appeals? How did you decide which evidence to include for each target audience? How did you tap into those needs/values to create the best effect for your audience?
Consider the following types of letters as potential models and mentor texts:
· open letter to discuss policy change (protest or support a cause),
· letter to the editor in response to a published article,
· letter to request service or support,
· letter to raise funds,
· letter of despair or apology,
· letter of complaint,
· letter of suggestion,
· letter of praise
· other clear, purposefully constructed letter…
· Established your occasion/purpose for writing the letter?
· Used the appropriate language, organization, and format to reach the audience?
· Identified your credibility, concerns and voice?
· Referenced relevant, specific details that support your position/ideas?
· Requested a call to action or a response?
· Identified and addressed the specific recipient most likely to act/react?
Remember, letter writing is a social practice that has reflected and influenced many significant moments in history. Your letter extends your voice in the hopes of affecting another.
As with all our class assignments, I want you to find a way to make this task as relevant to your life and interesting as possible.
There will be many links to example letters posted on Blackboard. Use these to inspire you!
Be creative, be bold, be thoughtful.
THE PROCESS: [Adapted from Wrightslaw.com, 12 Rules for Writing Great Letters]
1. Before you write a letter, you need answer these questions.
Who? Who am I writing to? What are the values and beliefs of this person?
What? What am I talking about? What does my audience already know and what do they need to learn?
Why? Why am I writing? What am I trying to accomplish?
How? How can I best use my knowledge of my audience to accomplish my goal? What evidence, tone, appeals, and goals are they most likely to respond to the way I want them to?
2. Have a specific Reader in mind. Knowing who you’re writing to takes much of the guessing out of your letter writing process. Imagine who this person is, with all their biases and preconceived ideas about what you have to say and address those ideas as you move through the letter.
Letter Writing Tips:
Make It Clear
It’s incredibly easy to get side-tracked when writing letters, especially if you’re feeling upset or emotional. Remember: You are writing to make a point, clarify an event, make a request, and create a paper trail. Talk out loud. Avoid vague words, jargon, and long rambling sentences. Use short words when possible. If you naturally use long words to express yourself, try substituting short words that mean the same thing. Long rambling letters put people off because they are hard to read. You don’t want this to happen. You want the reader, your Stranger, to enjoy reading your letter.
Make It Alive
Speak directly to the reader. Use the same words and figures of speech you use in your day-to-day speech. Think about the Reader as a real person. Imagine yourself talking with him about your problems. This is the person you are writing to. You’re not firing a letter off to an unknown entity. Use words like “you,” “we,” “us,” “our” to make your letter more personal. Everyone who reads the letter will feel that the message is directed at them.
Make it RIGHT
Letters filled with errors are distracting. Readers get so distracted by misspelled words and poor grammar that they miss the point. If you send a letter that is filled with mistakes, your real message is that you are sloppy and careless. If you prepare your letter on a computer, it will be easier to read. The Reader will thank you for little touches like this. Letters are not e-mails; they require more careful preparation.
Letter writing is an art. A well written letter is a pleasure to read. It’s also very hard work.
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