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Media CenterWriting Workshop

Good letters make full reference to the article's source, author(s), title and the date it was published. This enables the recipient to better recognize the source of your concerns and complaints.

Good letters follow the Seven Rules of Effective Communication.

1. Be Clear
Easy to read letters are easy to understand. Active voice sentences that follow Subject-Verb-Object construction are clear and easy to understand. The Subject initiates action, which is the Verb, or engine of the sentence, and directs it to the Object. Passive Voice sentences are more difficult to understand, because some readers confuse the Object with the Subject. Consider that your recipient may receive hundreds of letters. Also, clear and simple sentences are going to be easier to read than a string of complex and compound sentences.

2. Be Concise
Less is more. Focus on a few key points and fully develop your points. If you can write a strong sentence in five words, then do not do it in eight words. If you have a choice between a two-syllable word and a three-syllable synonym, use the easier two-syllable word.

3. Be Correct
The best researched facts and the most superbly organized letter can fall flat if there are various types of grammatical errors. Review the top 100 commonly misspelled words, and the rules for subject-verb agreement and parallel structure. Also, after you have spell checked, carefully read your letter.

4. Be Accurate
Factually accurate points are critical. If you know nothing about "the occupation," either first do the research and then write, or take a pass. Letters that are factually incorrect belong in the waste can.

5. Be Compelling
Get your reader's attention, and keep it to the end of your letter. Open with a hook, and keep your style and points as interesting as possible. The best research and approach may fall far short if the letter is dry and uninteresting.

6. Be Complete
Each paragraph is a unit that focuses on one idea. A paragraph with at least three sentences is recommended. The opening topic sentence, the second sentence with a supporting point, and a third sentence to add full body and to complete your point together make a complete idea in one paragraph.

7. Be Tactful
Show respect for your audience, and avoid complaining or being rude since that may undermine your effort. If you cannot get over your anger, sleep on your letter and/or bounce it off of a friend. That anger, no doubt, has fueled your desire to "do something about it," but it may undermine your impact. Maintain a respectful tone.

Now, be confident, and write your letter with style! Do not forget to include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers so that your letter has a chance of being published, if that is what you want.

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