Your Letter to the Editor is not a traditional assignment. The purpose is to use a brief, and persuasive form of communication to explore a problem relevant to the contemporary US health care system. The approach you will use, however, requires you to stretch yourself in different ways and to become an advocate for things that matter to you.
Specifically, your assignment is to write a Letter to the Editor of a recognized and reputable news source (e.g., New York Times, Baltimore Sun, etc.). This letter can be on any topic that interests you. The only stipulation is the topic must relate to the US health care system. Maybe you’re concerned about a lack of services for teenage pregnancy. Maybe you’re shocked to learn the US health care system is so nonresponsive to consumer needs. Maybe you believe that too little attention is given to issues of gender identity and sexuality. Maybe you’re worried that too few students receive enough education in high school to prepare them for the health risks of college. Or maybe you’re strongly opposed to – or supportive of – an article previously published in the newspaper. The selection of topic is limited only by your creativity.
With respect to content, the expectation is that you will offer material that has not been covered in class. While some overlap with a presentation or article review is acceptable, you must go beyond whatever might have been offered in our class. Your letter also should be an easily digested work. Its style and use of sources must be consistent with the norm of the news source you select. You are expected to make use of appropriate data to support your assertions, as well as to counter what you perceive to be leading contrary points of view. For example, you might want to frame your observations in terms of well-respected documents: “According to the US Report, Healthy People 2020, there will be …” Content must be accurate and current. For many topics, if you limit yourself to material published five years ago, your letter will be out of date. And remember the importance of appropriate citations. Anyone found to have plagiarized
will fail the class.
Appropriate content for writing of this sort will start with a brief statement of the problem. Discuss why the problem is important/relevant to you. Review issues linked to the problem. Present your point of view. Anticipate criticisms by showing how your perspective responds to other points of view. Give a concise conclusion. Papers are expected to be approximately 250–300 words. Requests for extensions for this assignment will be issued no later than one week before the assignment’s due date. Students who request extensions after the stipulated date will receive extensions only if they meet University terms for granting of Incompletes (e.g., can document illness or other personal business that caused failure to complete the assignment). All assignments will be submitted on Blackboard by the date/time listed in the syllabus. . Twenty points will be subtracted from your earned (Letter to Editor) grade for each day (24hours) — including weekends — that you are late in submitting an Letter to Editor. Any letter that includes more than three lines of direct quotation (of ANY length — i.e., whether 3 separate quotes or one long one) will receive a 10 point deduction from its earned grade.
Some things to consider when crafting your letter:
1) Use statistics – but sparingly. They can get confusing and overwhelming very quickly.
2) Mention an article already printed by the paper. This dramatically increases the chances that your letter will be run.
3) Remember your audience. In most cases you’re trying to sway the public, not an adversary. Therefore, you should take pains to seem moderate and fair. This doesn’t mean you should be bland. But you should write with the average person in mind, and use phrases and arguments that resonate with them. You don’t want John Q. Public to be turned off your rhetoric and think, “Well, both sides are extremists”
4) A catchy first line is helpful. Instead of “I’m writing to respond to the Star Tribune editorial of August 3rd,” try “As a gun owner, the August 3rd editorial left me wondering if Star Tribune editorial writers live in the real world.”
The best content will be under-appreciated if it is not presented in an organized manner. For that reason, it is critical that you prepare a letter that has clear and logical development to its arguments. This is not a long letter. Extraneous discussion must be kept to a minimum (if not totally eliminated). Focus your prose on the problem which you identify, and be sure that its orderly development contributes to the letter’s overall strength. Lastly, your letter will be examined in terms of the quality of its writing. If you do not take the time to edit your work, your letter will be compromised. Good writing is not only the provision of clear, well-crafted sentences. It also includes prose that is properly spelled; grammatically correct; and punctuated appropriately.
Your letters will be graded in terms of criteria including: content, organization, and writing.
How to Write Letters to the Editor by Richard Rider
Short, concise letters are always more likely to be published than long, meandering ones; try to keep them under 150 words. The longer letters are also more likely to be edited. It’s better that you do your own editing.
Ever notice how you read letters to the editor in the paper? Most people read the shorter letters first and then perhaps later read the longer ones. Thus your shorter letter has a better chance of being read.
WHAT TO WRITE? Unlike single-issue or special-interest groups, libertarians can select from an enormous range of subjects. Replying to editorials, agree or disagree, is very effective.
Every day the news offers us all too many topics on which to comment.
Be timely; try to respond within two or three days of the article’s publication. Pick an issue of particular importance to you – don’t be afraid to let some passion show through.
Here are some stylistic considerations:
1. State the argument you’re rebutting or responding to, as briefly as possible, in the letter’s introduction. Don’t do a lengthy rehash; it’s a waste of valuable space and boring to boot.
2. Stick to a single subject. Deal with one issue per letter.
3. Don’t be shrill or abusive. Editors tend to discard letters containing personal attacks. Even though you’re dying to call Jesse Jackson a preachy parasite, stifle the urge.
4. Your letter should be logically organized. First a brief recitation of the argument you are opposing, followed by a statement of your own position. Then present your evidence. Close with a short restatement of your position or a pithy comment
(“Jimmy Breslin says possession of firearms should be limited to law enforcement officers. I say when only the police have guns, the police state is just around the corner.”).
5. Use facts, figures and expert testimony whenever possible. This raises your letters above the “sez you, sez me” category. For instance: “Anthony Lewis calls for taxing the rich as a way to balance the budget. Is he aware of the fact that if we confiscated the entire income of the top wage earners in this country (those with income above $200,000), this would run the federal government for exactly 8 days?”
Readers respect the opinions of people with special knowledge or expertise. Use expert testimony to bolster your case (“George Will claims we need to draft to defend America. But General Edward C. Meyer, Army Chief of Staff, recently stated . . .”).
6. Proofread your letter carefully for errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Newspapers will usually edit to correct these mistakes, but your piece is more likely to be published if it is “clean” to begin with. Read your letter to a friend, for objective input.
One suggestion is that a letter shouldn’t be mailed the same day it is written. Write, proofread and edit the piece. Then put it aside until the next day. Rereading your letter in a fresh light often helps you to spot errors in reasoning, stilted language and the like. On the other hand, don’t let the letter sit too long and lose it’s timeliness.
7. Try to view the letter from the reader’s perspective. Will the arguments make sense to someone without a special background on this issue. Did you use technical terms not familiar to the average reader?
8.Should your letter be typed? In this day and age, generally yes. Double or triple space the letter if it is short. For faxing purposes, we appreciate it if the letter is all on one page, so single spacing might be the only option available.
9.Direct your missives to “Letters to the Editor,” or some similar sounding title.
10. Always include your name, address, day-time phone number and signature. The papers will not publish this information, but they may use it to verify that you wrote the letter. If we are fax broadcasting your letter, do not put a date on it. We may have to wait a day or two before broadcasting it out, depending on how many letters are waiting for dissemination.
11. Most important – WRITE! Do not try to do a perfect letter. Just give it a good effort and send it off. Letter writing is the one thing that any one of us can do on our own without the need to work through a group. No committees are necessary. Just do it!
Don’t be discouraged if your letter isn’t published. The editor may have received more responses on that issue than he feels he can handle.
If we are faxing your letter, you will almost certainly be published somewhere. The only drawback is that we do not have a good feedback system, so you may not know which of the papers publish your letter, particularly the smaller ones.
Tips on Writing Letters to the Editor
Writing a letter to the editor is a great opportunity to share your opinion, educate the public about animal issues, applaud someone for doing the right thing, or criticize inhumane policies. A well written, well timed letter to the editor can shift public opinion and influence policy. Editors prefer to publish timely, concise letters that respond to an article, editorial, or other letter that appeared in the newspaper. They also prefer to run letters about issues of local importance and interest.
- Before writing your letter, review the newspaper’s policy on letters to the editor. It is frequently available on the newspaper’s web site under the Opinion section.
- Write and submit your letter as quickly as possible, preferably the same day that the article runs.
- Submit letters by e-mail whenever possible. (Look for the e-mail address on the newspaper’s web site).
- Your letter must stand on its own—not all readers will have seen the original story.
- Open your letter with a strong statement that comments on an article, editorial, or other letter that appeared in the newspaper. Your opening statement can take issue with a comment from someone interviewed for the story, add to the discussion by pointing out something readers would need to know, disagree with an editorial position, or point out an error or misrepresentation in an article.
- Be careful about accuracy and avoid personal attacks.
- Keep your letter as short as possible by focusing on one, or at most two, major points. Support your position with facts, statistics, citations or other evidence. Aim for no more than 250-300 words, and be sure to stay under the paper’s word limit.
- Close with the thought you’d like readers to remember. Instead of focusing your attention at a reporter, editor, or expert who got it wrong, consider the central point you want people reading the letter to take away.
- Ask someone to review your letter to be sure your writing is clear and you are getting your point across.
- You must include your name, street address and phone number. Editors are on guard about fake identities and will often contact you to verify that you wrote your letter. They will not run anonymous letters. The editorial pages exist to offer a cross section of community opinion. Editors are more likely to publish letters on issues that are important to their readers.
Here are some things to keep in mind when submitting a letter to the editor:
- Don’t respond to numerous articles in a short amount of time. Many papers have policies that limit how frequently they will publish the opinion of one individual or organization.
- Keeping your letter short will increase the likelihood that the editor will have time to read your letter and consider it for publication.
- Editors will modify your letter for clarity, and could cut parts of it entirely if it is too long. It’s best to send a short, well written letter to avoid the chance that you disagree with the changes the editor makes.
The grading Rubric is uploaded below, please take Really care of it